Income Security for Older Workers

Photo Credit: Juan Arredondo/Getty Images Reportage

WIEGO's Initiative

Globally, levels of informal employment are higher amongst older workers. However, little attention is given to older informal workers’ patterns of inclusion and exclusion, as well as the contributions they are making and have made to the community and economy.

WIEGO recognizes the significant contributions of older men and women in informal employment and their challenges in fulfilling their right to work and access the labour market. As a response, WIEGO Social Protection Programme launched a pillar of work on Income Security for Older Workers which understands older informal workers as people who are contributing to household incomes and to care work, rather than as “the unproductive elderly.”

Latest Research

While the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on older people’s health and mortality have been well-publicised, less attention has been paid to older people’s experiences as workers during the crisis. Drawing primarily on data from a mixed-method survey conducted by WIEGO in April and July 2020 in 12 cities globally, this paper  presents unique insights into the impacts of COVID-19 on the incomes of older women and men in informal employment, as well as their access to social protection, during the early stages of the pandemic. 

This publication was the result of a collaboration between WIEGO and Help Age International.


This joint WIEGO and HomeNet Cambodia study adds to the limited research on home-based workers and their access to social-protection programmes in Cambodia. Home-based workers in Cambodia and their families face a wide range of occupational, environmental and health risks that can push them into poverty.

Read the Lessons Learned from the IDPoor Programme in Cambodia report.

Policy Analysis and Engagements 

WIEGO advocates at least a basic pension for older women and men, which would enable the choice to continue working or not, and the level of intensity of the work in which they do engage. Particularly for older women and men who want to remain economically active, it is critical that the decent work agenda extends to them, too—providing greater opportunities, tackling discrimination, extending healthcare (including in the workplace), and improving representation for older people in processes of change. 

WIEGO brings these policy demands in existing engagement mechanisms both at the global and regional levels: 

  • In March 2023, WIEGO organized a brainstorming session to answer the question "What might a research study on older informal workers look like in Thailand?" The event was attended by research experts from the Foundation of Thai Gerontology Research and Development Institute, Thammsat University, Chulalongkorn Univerity, and HomeNet Thailand. Results from the session informed the shape of collaborative research on older informal workers in Thailand in 2024
  • WIEGO was a discussant at the fourth meeting of the OECD and USP2030 Policy Dialogue on Social Protection and Development : Ageing in Context of Large Labour Market Informality: How Can Social Protection Take up the Challenge? and highlighted the key recommendations in extending contributory pensions to informal workers
  • See Francie Lund's presentation Informal Workers Growing Older in the Changing World of Work, given at the British Society of Gerontology Conference: “Ageing in an Unequal World” Manchester, 5th July 2018.
  • Listen to the WIEGO Informal Economy: Social Protection podcast as we explore the issue of the social protection needs for older informal workers and help us understand more about the fundamental concepts, debates and trends around the social protection for older informal workers, in particular in South East Asia.
  • WIEGO presented the challenges of the pandemic for older informal workers at the United Nations High Level Political Forum (HLPF) 2021 Side Event “COVID-19 Pandemic: A Stress Test of Global Ageing - HLPF2021”. The Official Stakeholder Group on Ageing (SGA), the event organizer, submitted a position paper to HLPF2021 highlighting challenges and recommendations on rights to decent work and social protection of older informal workers
  • At Oxfam’s ASEAN Regional Forum on Social Protection that Empowers Women - Session A, WIEGO highlighted why we need to make social protection more gender transformative across the life-course. 
  • Contributed an article on The ASEAN, the official magazine of the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community, on older women workers in Southeast Asia’s informal economy. It highlights the size and composition, location, and conditions of work of older women and WIEGO’s approach to supporting older workers in informal employment, especially in the area of social protection.
  • Findings from Older Informal Workers in the COVID-19 Crisis  has informed a book chapter by HelpAge India on the theme of Build Back Better World for Older Women: Good Practises to Ensure Health and Income Security in the Post Pandemic Era. 

In consultation with older informal workers and their organizations, WIEGO currently develops our new strategic plan that will layout overarching goals and specific objectives that we’ll work to accomplish in the next five years.

Contact: Aura Sevilla, Focal Person on Older Workers,

Other Resources

IP-CIG Policy in Focus (PiF) magazine What's next for social protection in light of COVID-19: challenges ahead chapter on: “Older people’s income security and access to social protection during COVID-19 and beyond”.

Informal Economy Topic
Informal Economy Theme