Transforming the traditional social contract: Reflections from “Social Contracts and Informal Workers in the Global South”

Date: July 19, 2022
Time: 9:00am - 10:30am Eastern Daylight Time
Languages: English with French and Spanish interpretation available.

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The COVID-19 pandemic exposed and exacerbated pre-existing inequalities and injustices, the attendant economic crisis disproportionately impacting the informal workers who make up over 60% of the world’s workers. The fallout has reinforced prior calls which have underscored the need for a new social contract - one which accounts for the reality of widespread informal employment. But what does that really mean? Different actors have quite distinct proposals for what an ideal social contract should look like. 

In this new volume, Social Contracts and Informal Workers in the Global South, published in June 2022 (Edward Elgar), the editors and contributors seek to answer this question by integrating social contract theory with the experiences of organizations of informal workers in the Global South. Instead of ideologically driven ‘top-down’ calls to revitalize the social contract, it advocates for ‘bottom-up’ initiatives focused on the demands of the working poor in the informal economy, and outlines a vision for a social contract grounded in this reality.

Join WIEGO on July 19, 2022 from 9:00-10:30 a.m. EDT (15:00-16:30 p.m. CET, 18:30-20:00 p.m. IST) as we launch the book and call attention to a renewed social contract which centers workers in informal employment. Panelists will discuss:

  • Different models of social contract theory and how theory can be used to support organizing and advocacy;
  • The critical issue of social protection coverage, including an overview of the different types of worker power from which informal workers have drawn in order to catalyze change;
  • The lived realities of informal homeworkers in developing countries as a means of arguing for the necessity of social contracts that ‘transcend national structures’ and
  • Three social contract scenarios in the Covid-19 context, including the key features of a better new social contract for informal workers.


  • Laura Alfers, Director, Social Protection Programme, WIEGO & Research Associate, Department of Sociology, Rhodes University
  • Martha Chen, Senior Advisor, WIEGO & Lecturer of Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard University
  • Sophie Plagerson, Visiting Associate Professor, Centre for Social Development in Africa, University of Johannesburg
  • Marlese von Broembsen, Director, Law Programme, WIEGO

Minouche Shafik, Director of the London School of Economics and author of the book What We Owe Each Other: A New Social Contract For A Better Society will act as moderator and discussant.

Informal Economy Theme
Informal Economy Topic
Event type