Toward a Better Deal for Informal Workers: A Paradigm Shift Post-COVID

IE Revisted Chen and Carre Cover
13 April 2021 - 13 April 2021

Time: 9am–11am EST

In partnership with Ford Foundation and UNU-WIDER, WIEGO co-hosted an event to celebrate the book and call attention to the future of informal work.

In mid-2020, Routledge Press published The Informal Economy Revisited: Examining the Past, Envisioning the Future. This volume, edited by Martha Chen and Françoise Carré, contains the reflections of three dozen renowned scholars from ten countries—across Asia, Africa, Latin America, North America and Europe—and several disciplines—anthropology, economics, labour law, political science, social policy, sociology, urban planning and design. As a whole, these reflections capture recent rethinking about the informal economy and call for a paradigm shift in theory and research as well as policies, laws and regulations on the informal economy. The disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 on informal workers and their livelihoods makes the call for this paradigm shift and a ‘better deal” for informal workers all the more urgent.

  • The co-editors, Marty Chen and Françoise Carré, introduced the book and speakers. 
  • Kunal Sen and Martín Abregú reflected on the future of informal work given shifting policy environments since the pandemic crisis.
  • Laura Alfers, Gautam Bhan, Kate Meagher and Caroline Skinner reflected on the future of informal work based on their contributions to the volume and their insights about informal workers’ livelihoods through the COVID crisis and about recovery plans of governments. 
  • Kunal Sen provided discussant comments. 
  • Sally Roever, International Coordinator of WIEGO, concluded with reflections on re-envisioning the informal economy and informal labour markets.

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Martín Abregú Martín Abregú is vice president for International Programs at the Ford Foundation. As such, he works on designing and implementing a vision for the foundation’s work at the global level, seeking to respond to the global drivers of inequality by bringing new voices and perspectives into the international arena. He works with teams in the US and around the globe, including 10 regional offices and four international programs: Civic Engagement and Government; Gender, Racial, and Ethnic Justice; Natural Resources and Climate Change; and Technology and Society.
Laura Alfers Laura Alfers is Director of WIEGO's Social Protection Programme and a Research Fellow, Rhodes University, South Africa. She holds a PhD from the School of Built Environment and Development Studies at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and an MPhil from Cambridge University. Laura has worked on several grassroots action research projects – most intensively in South Africa and Ghana – and is currently working with global networks of informal workers to develop social protection as a mobilizing and organizing tool, for example supporting HomeNet South East Asia’s Universal Health Coverage Advocacy Initiative, and working with the International Domestic Workers Federation (IDWF) on social protection in Bangladesh, India and Nepal.
Gautam Bhan Gautam Bhan is Senior Lead, Academics and Research, at the Indian Institute for Human Settlements, where he anchors work on affordable housing and social protection.
Françoise Carré Françoise Carré serves as Statistics Program director for WIEGO and is Research Director of the Center for Social Policy, University of Massachusetts Boston McCormack Graduate School, USA.  She specializes in applied labor economics and comparative employment relations and writes about informal work and non-standard work in developed and developing countries.  In addition to The Informal Economy Revisited (2020), her most recent co-authored book is Where Bad Jobs Are Better: Retail Jobs across Countries and Companies, recipient of the 2017 Bowen award for outstanding book on labor and public policy, Princeton University Industrial Relations Section and of the American Sociological Association 2019 Distinguished Monograph Award of the Labor and Labor Movements Section.
Martha (Marty) Chen Martha (Marty) Chen is a Lecturer in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School and Co-Founder, Emeritus International Coordinator and Senior Advisor of WIEGO. An experienced development practitioner and scholar, her areas of specialization are employment, gender and poverty with a focus on the working poor in the informal economy. Before joining Harvard in 1987, she had two decades of resident work experience in Bangladesh and in India. Dr Chen co-founded and, for twenty years, led the WIEGO network, which is well known worldwide for its work to improve the status of the working poor in the informal economy through stronger organizations, improved statistics and research and a more favourable policy environment. Dr Chen received a PhD in South Asia Regional Studies from the University of Pennsylvania.  She was awarded a high civilian award, the Padma Shri, by the Government of India in April 2011, and a Friends of Bangladesh Liberation War award by the Government of Bangladesh in December 2012.
Kate Meagher Kate Meagher is an Associate Professor in Development Studies at the Department of International Development, London School of Economics.  She specializes in research on African informal economies, and has published widely on cross-border trade and regional integration, informal manufacturing clusters, and religion and informal economic systems.  Her current work focuses on youth unemployment and Islamic extremism in Nigeria, taxing the informal economy, and the gig economy in Africa.  Recent publications include ‘Cannibalizing the Informal Economy: Frugal Innovation and Economic Inclusion in Africa’, European Journal of Development Research, 30(1):17-33, and  Globalization, Economic Inclusion and African Workers: Making the Right Connections (Routledge, 2016, co-edited with Laura Mann and Maxim Bolt).
Sally Roever Sally Roever is International Coordinator of WIEGO, currently based in the United States. She holds a PhD in political science from the University of California at Berkeley, USA. Her PhD thesis was on street vending organizations and local governance in Lima, Peru. Her research focuses on the risks and vulnerabilities associated with own-account work in the urban informal economy, the role of urban infrastructure and public space in supporting informal livelihoods, and innovations in urban legal frameworks regarding informal employment.
Kunal Sen Prof Kunal Sen is the Director, United Nation University – World Institute for Development Economics Research (UNU-WIDER) and Professor of Development Economics in the Global Development Institute, the University of Manchester, UK. He is also Research Fellow of IZA, Bonn. He has been a faculty member in the University of East Anglia in the UK, Massey University in New Zealand, the Australian National University, and the Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research in India. His principal areas of research are political economy, macroeconomics, international trade, and the analysis of labour markets in developing countries. While the main region of his research is India, he also works on East Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Caroline Skinner Caroline Skinner is Urban Policies Research Director for WIEGO and a Senior Researcher at the African Centre for Cities at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. For over two decades her work has interrogated the informal economy and processes of informality with a view to generate new knowledge and inform livelihood-centred policy and planning responses.   She has published widely on the topic. She has a long track record of policy and advocacy work at a local, provincial, national and international levels and provides technical support for worker-based movements.





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