Focal Cities: Activities and Outcomes in Lima

Newspaper vendors in Peru

Since 2010, WIEGO has implemented several thematic initiatives in Lima, Peru, creating a critical mass of work on informal employment issues.

WIEGO has worked with seven sectors of informal workers in Lima, the country’s most populous metropolitan area. Carmen Roca, who coordinates this work in Lima, notes that a main problem was a lack of visibility. Informal worker issues were not widely discussed or understood, and statistical data was not available. The workers needed research, statistics and findings when speaking to the press and governments.

Visibility is increasing. Carmen shared the story of a famous Peruvian chef who helped informal market workers gain recognition by explaining on a radio show how he went to the local markets to buy food. Without the informal workers, he said, he could not produce the food he makes.

New Knowledge

Statistical profile of informal workers – Despite strong economic growth in Peru and the decrease in informal employment from 81% to 75% (2005
to 2011), the self-employed remain unchanged as 33% of the total workforce in Peru.

Social Policy

  • Informal workers have very limited access to Universal Health, child care and old-age pensions.
  • Cash transfers are only rural.
  • Efforts have been made to expand benefits to informal workers via small and micro enterprise laws.

Membership-Based Organizations (MBOs)

  • their history, needs, and self-organized social protection schemes
  • five sectors have their own laws, granting social security – but not enforced
  • mutual help to cover costs of health and funerals
  • collective savings


  • 17 rounds of focus groups with 9 MBOs
  • barriers to effective access: discrimination, long line ups and work schedules
  • informal workers pay for services that should be free, or turn to unregulated private services
  • willingness to pay at own capacity for a service that is inclusive and effective

Informal Economy Monitoring Study (Street Vendors)

A study of 150 vendors, most involved in the sale of produce and prepared food, was conducted in 2012.

  • More than three quarters of the vendors provided the main source of household income through their informal work.
  • Vendors identified reduced earnings due to fewer customers and increased competition, and the higher cost of raw materials resulting from inflated food prices as major problems affecting their livelihoods.
  • Focus groups ranked abuse of authority as one of the most important drivers of working conditions.

Read the Lima City Report Executive Summary.

Improved Capacities

On-line training prioritized to build computer skills, combined with face-to face modalities, covered:

  • social policy
  • advocacy
  • communications
  • regulatory and legal frameworks
  • occupational health & safety
  • sustainability and fundraising
  • International Labour Conference 2014 preparation

Fruitful Dialogue and Policy Influence


  • Ministry of Labour for the Law of the Self Employed Worker
  • Ministry of Development and Social Inclusion, for provision of social programs to informal workers
  • City Government, for Ordinance on street trade and retail markets
  • Systems inclusive of informal workers for social security, universal health care, and municipal health

Multi-sector Government Board on Waste Pickers

achieved Labour Certification with Ministry of Labour, pilot project on Health & Safety at work with City Government, and financing mechanisms with National Fund for Environment


Collective platform of all sectors of informal workers: outcomes achieved in regulation and promotion of retail markets at city level,
and in new child care, and non-contributory old age pension programmes in Central Government.

Notable Gains

Domestic Worker Campaign

A campaign designed for domestic workers and their employers will run during June and July 2015. It is intended for employers to register their maids/domestic workers in the tax office and pay the monthly fees that would guarantee their domestic workers access to health insurance under the Social Security System and old-age pensions under either a public or private scheme. The national federations of domestic workers which are partners in the campaign have expressed their satisfaction with the campaign publicity materials, including characters depicting a domestic worker and an employer, and the good humour and motivation to act that the materials convey.

A New Street Vending Ordinance – The Focal Cities advocacy work was instrumental in securing a new street trade ordinance favourable to informal workers in 2014. The new ordinance has a pro-poor approach, approves licenses for a period of two years, promotes formalization and growth of the business of the vendor, and seeks to build capacities of vendors while protecting also their health. Another outcome was that waste pickers can now have their skills certified, proving that they are experts in their work.

Safer Working Conditions – An additional effect has come from the OHS project. A pilot study concluded that heavy bags of potatoes—in excess of 100 kg, or twice the allowable legislated weight—were causing physical harm to the informal market porters who must carry the heavy loads. Interest from authorities and wholesalers led to a pilot project
that has farmers packing potatoes in 50 kg sacks.

Long Process

Patience is an important part of the process, Carmen stressed. “We work step by step, building on the gains from yesterday almost without noticing—but there is progress,” she said. “It’s rewarding when
we learn that informal workers are doing things on their own with the local authorities, and we just get to know about them.”

Read a brochure about the Focal Cities approach in Lima.