COVID-19, Informal Workers and WIEGO’s Work during this Crisis

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covid-19 and informal workers

WIEGO is focused on the devastating impact for the world’s two billion informal workers, who lack labour, social and health protections. We are striving to ensure that informal workers’ issues are addressed, sharing information and advocacy tools, and arguing for policies and plans that include informal workers.

In this global pandemic, WIEGO is focused on the potentially devastating consequences for informal workers, who lack labour, social and health protections. We know they are facing particular challenges due to COVID-19 and the response to it, and that women informal workers will face additional challenges.

Those who work in crowded public spaces and/or who lack access to water and sanitation cannot simply “maintain social distance and wash their hands.”

Sally Roever speaks to WIEGO's concerns in this podcast

Pandemic: Informal workers urgently need
income replacement — and more protections
by Laura Alfers

When staying home and away from work becomes the only way to slow the infection and keep communities safe, then income replacement measures – such as basic income – from the state are critical for informal workers and their families to meet their most basic needs. Such measures must go beyond the targeting the very poor and the unemployed to include workers in vulnerable occupations.

We also know that the best way to find practical and appropriate interventions is for national and local decision-makers to work together on a coordinated disaster response that involves grassroots community groups at the forefront of the daily struggles experienced by the working poor. Street vendor associations, waste picker cooperatives, domestic workers’ unions and home-based worker networks should be viewed as partners, alongside community groups who work with urban populations of the working poor.

On these pages, you can learn what informal workers and their organizations are saying and doing to support their communities and advocate for solutions that meet informal workers' basic needs:

Advocacy, action and calls for more action 

Waste pickers and COVID-19

Domestic Workers and COVID-19

WIEGO is striving to ensure that informal workers’ issues are heard, understood and addressed. We will provide information and advocacy tools for informal worker organizations, and argue for local/national policies and plans that include informal workers.

How WIEGO is working

Our team consists of more than 55 people working in every region of the globe. Much of our work is done, and can continue to be done, remotely. However, there will be some disruptions.

We have cancelled all travel and in-person meetings by our team, closed our Operations office and asked all team members to avoid gatherings and to follow the advice and restrictions of their local health authorities.

This will necessarily prevent some activities that involve grounded, face-to-face encounters with our members, partners and allies, but the safety of our people and our communities is paramount.

Our specific activities

WIEGO is maintaining close communications with informal worker organizations and networks to determine what is needed and to assist in their advocacy work. We are sharing with these partners important information that we hope will assist them and their members.

We are also doing a rapid assessment to get an understanding of how COVID-19 and public health regulations are impacting the lives and livelihoods of informal workers. Our Social Protection and Focal Cities Teams will be conducting telephone interviews in several countries with informal worker leaders and others who work closely with them. The information we gather will inform advocacy and support strategies.

And we are monitoring and compiling information from around the globe on interventions that involve informal workers in any way, with a view to sharing this information widely.

Much more information will be posted in this website section on how the movement of informal workers – membership-based organizations, networks and allies, including WIEGO – are working to meet this challenge. We will also post news from around the globe on interventions and resources designed to help the working poor, their stories and more.