World Day for Safety & Health at Work: Informal Workers Matter

April 28th is the World Day for Safety and Health at Work.

Waste picker Lima, Peru

Photo: Waste picker sorts garbage in Lima (credit Juan Arrendondo/Getty Images Reportage)

Most of the world’s workers are informal workers. They are street vendors, waste pickers, home-based workers and transport workers, among others. They face serious risks to their health and safety as they earn their livelihoods in streets, landfills, slums, poorly-serviced markets and private homes.

Their income depends on their ability to work. Yet they do not have access to social protections, including sickness pay, employment injury benefits or maternity benefits.

Basic Facts BannersBasic Facts from 3 Cities in these Infographics

Accra, Ghana: Waste Picker Health & Safety

Accra, Ghana: Market Trader, Street Vendor & Headload Porter Health & Safety

Ahmedabad, India: Home-based Worker Health & Safety

Minas Gervais, Brazil: Waste Picker Health & Safety


This briefing note explains why WIEGO believes that extending social protection to informal workers matters, and how it can be done. Read Extending Social Protection to Informal Workers.

“The costs of healthcare can lead to debt for informal workers with low earnings. When these public services are not available, it is women informal workers who take time away from work to care for the ill, thus reducing their daily income.”


Waste Pickers and Work-Related Health Issues

Waste pickers face chronic exposure to dangers such as biological contaminants, chemicals and rodents, muscular pain from repetitive motions, as well as stress and inter-personal tensions that arise from disorganized processes. To better understand these risks, WIEGO undertook the Cuidar Project in Brazil. WIEGO's Social Protection podcast discusses the findings of that project. (Listen in Portuguese.)


What Informal Worker Organizations Can Teach Health Policymakers

Informal worker organizations are demonstrating, in practical ways, how health care for informal workers can look. Health policymakers can learn from this. These blogs by Laura Alfers offer insights:

• Universal Health Coverage: An Informal Worker Perspective
• In India, One-stop Shops Increase Access to Healthcare, Nutrition and Social Security Services for Working Poor

“It is initiatives like these that have the potential to address the economic and social devastation that results from costly health provision, which is too inaccessible and too focused on the cure at the expense of prevention.”