Child Care and Informal Workers

Textile worker in Laos in 2011 (Photo M.Chen)

WIEGO's Child Care Initiative

Child care is vital. Families, especially in the poorest households, rely on the earnings of informal women workers. A lack of quality public child care contributes to gender inequalities in labour force participation rates and earnings and exacerbates high levels of poverty among women informal workers and the children in their care.

In response to the demand from informal workers’ organizations, the Social Protection Programme started the Child Care Initiative in 2014. Its aim is to encourage local and national governments to consider public child care as a key social protection measure that will reduce poverty and inequality.

Latest Research

Since 2014, WIEGO has conducted several research studies with informal women workers and their organisations regarding their child care needs:

  • Focus group discussions examining women informal workers' access to child care in five cities across Brazil, Ghana, India, South Africa, and Thailand. Read the full report in English, French and Portuguese.
  • Data from the broader WIEGO COVID-19 Crisis and the Informal Economy Study shows how increased care responsibilities due to lockdowns and school and creche closures contributes to a loss of earnings, rising food insecurity, and asset depletion for women informal workers more so than men. Read the policy insight report in English, French and Spanish.
  • A small survey of women informal traders in Accra, Ghana; Durban, South Africa and Nakuru, Kenya highlights how their child care options have shifted in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic due to new public health risks and restrictions. Read the full report in English and learn more about alternative child care models proposed by Asiye eTafuleni in Durban.

Policy Analysis and Engagements 

Drawing on the policy demands emerging from engagements with informal workers organisations, WIEGO contributes to global and national policy processes. 

  • ILO and WIEGO Policy Brief Series on Child Care for Workers in the Informal Economy – available in English, French, and Spanish
  • Listen to the WIEGO Informal Economy: Social Protection podcast as the co-authors discuss child care models for women workers in the informal economy. 
  • UNICEF, ILO, and WIEGO policy brief on Family-Friendly Policies for Workers in the Informal Economy available in English
  • The global webinar on Child Care Services and Women’s Work brings together early childhood development policymakers, domestic worker and child care worker union leaders at IDWF and Public Services International and UN Women to discuss the challenges and opportunities to improve and expand public child care services and guarantee decent working conditions for child care workers as part of economic recovery strategies. Watch in English or Spanish
  • The national child care campaign in India organised a global webinar to hear from women informal workers and policymakers about how quality public child care services are a critical component of national economic recovery packages following the COVID-19 pandemic. Watch the webinar in English.
  • Review WIEGO’s comprehensive literature review on child care and women’s economic empowerment.
  • Read the policy brief on child care prepared for the United Nations High-Level Panel for Women's Economic Empowerment.
  • Market traders cite childcare as a priority issue for them and investment in childcare in markets is a way of reaching young girls and boys from low-income households. Read more about our work on child care in markets.

Mobilizing for Child Care

Women informal workers across the world are calling for quality public child care services, and WIEGO members and partners are integrating child care demands into their organizing efforts. To support these efforts, WIEGO has developed a global advocacy Child Care Campaign that provides tools and materials for informal workers and their organizations to download and use in seven languages.

As well as advocating for greater public investment in quality child care services, larger member-based organisations of informal workers are providing child care services to their members through cooperatives: 

  • The SEWA child care cooperative highlights the trust and accountability that emerges between caregivers, child care workers and SEWA due to an inclusive governance structure.
  • Listen to the podcast with the Unión de Trabajadores y Trabajadoras de la Economía Popular (UTEP) in Argentina on their collective action for quality child care services for their members – available in English and Spanish.
  • Read the joint ILO and WIEGO Initiative on Cooperatives meeting informal economy workers' child care needs – available in English and Spanish 
  • Read the report on women informal workers mobilizing for child care in English, Spanish and French.

Child care workers - including domestic workers who take care of young children - are most likely to be women informal workers themselves. Their demands for a living wage, training, and decent working conditions are central to the provision of quality public child care services. Meet care workers in the informal economy.

Alongside global union federations such as IDWF, ITUC, PSI, UNI, and Education International, WIEGO also supports mobilisations of informal workers organisations around the annual Global Day of Action on Care Work.

Mobilizing for more public investment in child care services is essential for women informal workers, improves child development outcomes, and can create new and decent work opportunities for care workers.


Other Resources

Informal Economy Topic
Informal Economy Theme