COVID-19 and Informal Workers - Advocacy, Opinion & Action

WIEGO is gathering and analyzing information from around the globe to capture the impact of this global pandemic on the world's two billion informal workers. Here, we capture just a few of the leading advocacy efforts to alleviate the suffering this crisis is causing, and the longstanding inequality in the world of work that it has underlined.

National and local governments have responded to the dual health and economic crisis in a variety of ways. Our Government responses page compiles emergency social protection measures being offered.

We are also working closely with organizations and networks of informal workers, as well as our partners on the ground, to help articulate and disseminate Informal worker demands.

The crisis in the real world of work

Life After COVID-19: Decommodify Work, Democratise the Workplace - More than 3,000 researchers from 600 universities around the world have issued an urgent call to heed the lessons of the COVID-19 crisis and rewrite the rules of our economic systems in order to create a more democratic and sustainable society. Their op-ed was published simultaneously in 33 media outlets around the globe.

On April 29, the International Labour Organization (ILO) of the UN revealed that its analysis suggests COVID-19 could wipe out half of the global workforce's livelihoods. Just three weeks earlier, on April 7, the ILO had said COVID-19 could wipe out equivalent of 195 million jobs, and that the pandemic and government-ordered lockdowns will impact four out five workers' livelihoods. The ILO called for "urgent, coordinated measures by governments" and said frontline workers must have protection. Earlier, on March 18, the ILO predicted a job loss worldwide of 25 million--less than the 2008 global economic crisis. The increasingly dire predictions highlight how rapidly COVID-19 is changing the global employment landscape.

The ILO curates a selection of timely articles on COVID-19 and the world of work.

From 25 November till 10 December, 2020, WIEGO and Global Networks representing workers in the informal economy join the Center for Women’s Global Leadership and allies in the Global 16 Days Campaign to end violence against women worldwide. They continue the call for ratification of the ILO Violence and Harassment Convention, C190. The Global 16 Days Campaign focuses on women workers in the informal economy, whose lives and livelihoods have been acutely impacted by COVID-19 and the unprecedented economic crisis that has followed. 

The UN Agency mandated to address Human Settlements and Shelter issued UN-Habitat policy statement on the prevention of evictions and relocations during the COVID-19 crisis on May 14.

Public Services International has launched a series of briefs explaining how national debt levels affect all workers.  This is particularly relevant now as countries are borrowing money to finance their emergency relief packages and though directed at PSI members in the public sector, has broader relevance.

Pope calls for consideration of ‘universal basic wage’ for unprotected workers - April 13, Vatican News (Spanish: Carta todos los idiomas - Francisco a los MMPP - COVID)

Kristalina Georgieva, Managing Director of the IMF, and Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the WHO, implore policymakers, especially in emerging market and developing economies,"to recognise that protecting public health and putting people back to work go hand-in-hand." Some say there is a trade-off: save lives or save jobs – this is a false dilemma (April 3)

LabourStart is compiling news from unions around the world 

UNU-WIDER is publishing a range of topics on COVID-19 across multiple topics.

Articles and Op-Eds

This May 12 World Bank blog looks at how cities must grapple with the crisis, and offers some promising examples: Cities are on the front lines of COVID-19 

In the Philippines, Rene E. Ofreneo examines the lockdown strategy, with its dire consequences for workers (especially informal workers) and the few concessions the government has made -- and compares that to the response in South Korea, which had adequate health facilities and pandemic strategies in place before the arrival of the new coronavirus. People-centered mobilization central in containing Covid-19

In Brazil, "The government has introduced emergency measures. Informal workers will each receive 200 reais a month (£33; $40). But Brazil's currency is plummeting.... It is not enough to buy food for a month for a family, let alone cover rent and bills. This is a menacing virus, but just as menacing is the threat of hunger - how can these families live like this, and for how long?" reports Katy Watson at BBC News. Read Coronavirus in South America: How it became a class issue

In South Africa, the government has taken decisive action to stop the spread of COVID-19, but the lockdown will exacerbate the already precarious position of the country's many working poor, development strategist Kate Philip writes in the Daily Maverick (22 March).

An opinion piece in Modern Ghana notes that in 2014, the Ghana Statistical Service estimated that 86.1 per cent of all employment was found in the informal economy (for women, it was 91 per cent) and descries the lack of action beyond some public service messaging around hand washing. The author, Delali Adogla, notes that some lack running water and also says, "The traders, hawkers and customers in Makola have no choice but to continue with their hand to mouth existence regardless of the threat. Their families must eat" before saying that the informal sector workers are the most vulnerable and that the State should be prioritizing their needs.

Karsten Noko writes in Al Jazeera, "In Africa, the crisis has not yet reached epic proportions. But the cracks caused by existing inequalities are already showing." He discusses the realities of informal workers and those who live in slums, who lack access to water and healthcare, and who cannot stay home and off work without incurring terrible hardship. In Africa, social distancing is a privilege few can afford

Informal Economy Topic