The Global Economic Crisis & the Urban Informal Economy

WIEGO and our partners in the Inclusive Cities Project conducted a rapid assessment of the impact of the crisis on the informal economy. During May, June and July 2009, individual and focus group interviews were conducted with home-based workers, street traders and waste pickers in 10 developing cities. 

This first round of research found that informal workers and informal enterprises were affected by decreased demand, increased competition, and fluctuating prices, and that informal workers were worked longer hours, took on additional risks, cut back on expenditure (including food and health care), and still saw their incomes decline. Results were collated into a detailed report, which includes a series of policy recommendations (drawing on suggestions from workers), a summary report and a fact sheet:

A second round of research was conducted in early 2010. Interviewers went back to the same participants and asked them about what changes they had experienced. In this round, more attention was paid to identifying and prioritizing policy and organizational interventions. The results were again collated into a detailed report, a summary report and a fact sheet:

To raise the profile of the informal economy in policy discourse about the impact of the crisis, findings have been presented on a range of local, regional and international policy platforms.

The research was co-ordinated by Zoe Horn, a researcher based in Australia, under the guidance of a technical advisory committee consisting of Marty Chen (WIEGO International Co-ordinator and Harvard University), Rhonda Douglas (WIEGO Global Projects Advisor), James Heintz (University of Massachusetts), Melanie Samson (WIEGO Africa Waste Picker Programme Co-ordinator), Shalini Sinha (WIEGO Home-based Work Sector Specialist), and Caroline Skinner (WIEGO Urban Policies Programme Director).

Continuing this Work

This research into the state of the informal economy led to the development of the 10-city Informal Economy Monitoring Study.