Laura Alfers

Laura Alfers 2019
Laura Alfers
Director, Social Protection Programme
When those who earn their livelihoods in the informal economy are not seen as workers, there is the very real danger that the link between the owners of capital and the social good, and questions of the responsibility of capital to that society, are lost.

Health systems tend to be oriented towards curative medicine, but for informal workers (as for all citizens) it is not only the cure that is important, but prevention of ill-health. Informal workers do not have access to sick leave and they lose income when they are unable to work.
fr Expertise
Social policy and employment; Social protection for workers in the informal economy; Health policy; Occupational health & safety for informal workers

Laura has worked with WIEGO since 2009 in the Social Protection Programme. In 2017, she became its Director. Laura started her work with WIEGO, helping to manage the Occupational Health & Safety for Informal Workers Project, which ran in Ghana, Tanzania, Brazil, Peru, and India, and since then has been involved in a number of other initiatives under the Social Protection Programme, including the Health Innovations Project and Child Care Initiative.

She has worked on several grassroots action research projects – most intensively in South Africa and Ghana – and has authored journal articles, reports and policy briefs emerging from this work.

Her work has shifted to a more global focus as director of the programme, although she tries to keep close to what is happening on the ground. She 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.

Laura is a South African who holds a PhD in Development Studies from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, with a focus on social policy, and an MPhil from Cambridge University. She is a Research Associate in the Department of Sociology at Rhodes University, where she supervises post-graduate students and is involved in building and extending the labour studies programme through the Neil Aggett Labour Studies Unit. She is the co-editor of the Handbook of Social Policy and Development (2019 Elgar).

In the News

2019. Podcast: Urban Infrastructure, Social Protection and Women Informal Workers

2018. WIEGO Blog: How the Draft WDR 2019 Got it Wrong: Rethinking and “Relinking” Social Protections for the Future of Work

2017: WIEGO Blog: Universal Health Coverage: An Informal Worker Perspective


2021. Informality and Social Protection in African Countries: A Forward-looking Assessment of Contributory Schemes. UNDP