Informal Economy Podcasts

Photo: Podcast host Cyrus Afshar (photo by R. Hernandez)

WIEGO’s podcast explores some of the most pressing issues faced by the world’s informal workers. It features experts from around the globe.

Top photo: Podcast host Cyrus Afshar.  Credit: Roberto Hernandez

More than half the world’s workforce lacks social protection. Informal workers (such as domestic workers, waste pickers, street vendors and home-based workers) typically earn little and carry big risks. Without social protection, they are extremely vulnerable to income losses and struggle to cope after a negative event or change (e.g. illness, disaster, injury).

From the future of work to the necessity of child care and universal health care, from local policy to international standards, this podcast discusses how informal workers can access better livelihood protection.


#28 COVID-19 Crisis and the Informal Economy Study: round 2

In the episode 20 of our podcast, we discussed the first round of the WIEGO longitudinal survey, conducted in 2020. In this special episode, we will discuss the report of the second round of this global survey. In this stage, 11 cities around the globe were part of the research that explored how the fallout of the pandemic affected informal workers’ income, working hours, access to healthcare, but also their coping strategies, demands and the government responses in the second year of the pandemic. To discuss some of the main findings of the research, we invited Ana Carolina Ogando and Mike Rogan.


#27 Social Security for Domestic Workers: trends and strategies

For decades, domestic workers have struggled to be recognized and to enjoy the same rights as other workers – including social protection rights. There has been significant progress over the past few years, as the workers’ movement pressured in national and international forums to have labour and social protection rights enshrined in their legal system. The ILO Convention-189 and the ratification by 35 countries, is one example of such achievements. However, there is still a lot to be done in order to formally include domestic workers into social protection systems. But also, there are important steps to be taken in order to ensure that these workers are effectively enjoying their rights, even where they are legally entitled to them. In order to better understand the concepts, shortcomings, challenges and advances regarding the inclusion of domestic workers in social protection schemes I talked to Maya Stern-Plaza.


#26 Challenging Global Social Protection Orthodoxies

Over the last few years, universal social protection and the government responses to the Covid-19 crisis has generated important debates in the field of social protection. The Universal Social Protection 2030 framework, for instance, has gained support from a variety of key social protection stakeholders, including national governments, the ILO, IMF, World Bank, and other United Nations agencies, as well as global civil society organizations. However, certain key principles and actions remain contested in practice at both the level of global financial institutions and within the roll-out of schemes at national level – which highlighted the importance of the role of the ideas. Much of the contestation over the desirable nature and role of social protection has its roots in implicit assumptions underpinned by neo-classical economic theory, resulting in powerful policy ideas which counteract the key principles of Universal Social Protection 2030, and ultimately undermine the extension of fair, equitable and sustainable provision of social protection to informal workers. In order to unpack, shed light into these assumptions and help us understand these dominant ideas and the actors behind it, we invited Florian Jurgens-Grant.


#25 Social Insurance for Informal Workers in South Africa

The last two years have brought a huge challenge to social protection systems around the world as the pandemic hit and shed light to the need of strengthening social insurance policies to protect workers against shocks that affected their livelihoods. We look at the case of South Africa’s Unemployment Insurance Fund (or UIF) and Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme (better known as TERS) to analyze how these policies were implemented to reach domestic workers, what went wrong, what went right, the challenges ahead and what learnings this might bring to help us think about new insurance schemes that can protect informal workers. To help us understand and navigate the UIF-TERS case we invited two guests, Amy Takié, Co-Founder at Izwi Domestic Workers Alliance, and Myrtle Witbooi, general secretary of the South African Domestic Service and Allied Workers Union (SADSAWU) and president of the International Domestic Workers Federation (IDWF).


#24 Lessons from the Covid-19 crisis for social protection

For the past two years, the world has been facing one of the biggest challenges of our lifetime, with the Covid-19 crisis. In this last episode of the year, we invited again Laura Alfers, the Social Protection programme coordinator at WIEGO, and Rachel Moussié, deputy coordinator of the Social Protection programme and head of the Child Care initiative, also here at WIEGO, to discuss the way in which the pandemic has exposed blind spots in social protection systems and reinforced women informal workers’ exclusion. In this talk, they explained the impact of the pandemic in their work and in the field of social protection globally. They also highlighted how WIEGO and workers’ organizations in the informal economy are engaging with social protection and developing and deepening alliances with labour movements.


#23 Child Care for Informal Workers in Argentina

The pandemic has highlighted the crucial importance of child care provision. In this episode, we look at how the Unión de Trabajadores de la Economía Popular (UTEP), an informal workers central union in Argentina, has supported child care cooperatives to provide these services for informal workers’ children. To understand how these community child care centres work in Argentina, how they have been affected by the pandemic and the challenges ahead we invited Carolina Palacio. Carolina is an organizer from the Argentinian Federation of Waste Pickers, affiliated to UTEP, and also she coordinates the Buenos Aires Costal City project at WIEGO.


#23b Cuidado Infantil para Trabajadoras Informales

La pandemia ha puesto de manifiesto la importancia crucial de la prestación de servicios de cuidado infantil. En este episodio, nos fijamos en cómo la Unión de Trabajadores de la Economía Popular (UTEP), una central sindical de trabajadores informales de Argentina, ha apoyado a las cooperativas de cuidado infantil para que presten estos servicios a los hijos de los trabajadores informales. Para entender cómo funcionan estos servicios comunitarios de cuidado de niños en Argentina, cómo se han visto afectados por la pandemia y los retos futuros, invitamos a Paola Caviedes. Paola es una recicladora del Movimiento de los Trabajadores Excluidos, movimiento afiliado a UTEP, y es una de las coordinadoras de la iniciativa de cooperativas de guarderías de la UTEP.


#22 ILC Reflections

After two weeks of intense debates that took place from June 3rd to June 19th, the first segment of the 109th session of the International Labour Conference – ILC – is now over. In this episode, we talked to worker leaders who attended the ILC to share their impressions and learnings from the event that had Social Protection on the forefront of the debates. Featuring: Oksana Aboud, international Coordinator of StreetNet International; Jeannette Nyiramasengesho, SNI Council Member and SYTRIECI; Jacquelina Flores, FACCyR /UTEP; Fish Ip, Asia regional coordinator from International Domestic Workers Federation (IDWF); Suntaree Saeng-Ging, International Coordinator of HomeNet South East Asia; Carmen Britez, Vice president of the International Domestic Workers Federation

#21 Covid-19 Vaccination And Informal Workers

In this episode, we dive into the social aspects of Covid-19 vaccination, and try to understand its impact on informal workers. How are they affected by the policy choices? What are the barriers to access? And what does it have to do with the issue of economic justice? These and other questions were discussed in this talk with with Christy Braham. Christy is WIEGO’s Worker’s Health coordinator, she is also a founder member of the African Network on Migration and Health and a PhD candidate in public health at the University of Sheffield. she has been working at WIEGO in a research project about access to vaccination to informal workers around the world.

#20 Covid-19 Crisis, Relief Policies and Care Impact on Informal Workers

In this episode, we explore how Covid-19 crisis affected informal workers care responsibilities and to which extent the government responses addressed informal workers’ needs in terms of income and food security, throughout 2020. WIEGO conducted a longitudinal survey with informal workers in 12 cities around the world, during the second and third quarters of 2020, and now the first findings are starting to be released. We invited two guests to discuss some of the results related to social protection. Mike Rogan is an Associate Professor in Economics and Economic History at Rhodes University in South Africa and a researcher at WIEGO. He co-authored a policy paper with Ana Carolina Ogando and Rachel Moussié about the Impact of COVID-19 on Informal Workers’ Care Responsibilities, Paid Work and Earnings. The other guest is Laura Alfers, who also was part of the survey research team. Laura is the director of the Social Protection Programme at WIEGO and she co-authored a paper with Ghida Ismail and Marcela Valdivia about food and cash relief policies during the pandemic.

#19b Gender-Based Violence and Informal Workers - part 2

In the second episode of the mini-series, the Informal Economy Podcast: social protection joins the “16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence against women”. We bring a series in two parts to talk about how gender-based violence impacts informal women workers and what they have been doing to face this important challenge, especially in a year marked by the Covid-19 global pandemic. Last week, we brought you the first part of this series, where we talked to Sonia George. Now, in the last part of the series, we talked to Oksana Abboud. Oksana is the international coordinator of StreetNet International, a global alliance of street-vendors that supports national associations and unions of street vendors, market vendors and hawkers.

#19 Gender-Based Violence and Informal Workers - part 1

In this episode, the Informal Economy Podcast: social protection joins the “16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence against women”. In this special episode, we will bring a series in two parts to talk about how gender-based violence impacts informal women workers and what they have been doing to face this important challenge, especially in a year marked by the Covid-19 global pandemic. This week, we bring you the first part of the show, featuring Sonia George. Sonia is the general secretary of SEWA in the Indian state of Kerela. SEWA stands for Self Employed Women’s Association, and an informal workers union in India. The second part of this episode is scheduled for next week. We will bring our talk with the international coordinator of StreetNet International, Oksana Abboud. StreetNet International is a global alliance of street-vendors that supports national associations and unions of street vendors, market vendors and hawkers.

#18 Social Protection Needs For Older Informal Workers

In this episode, we explore the issue of the social protection needs for older informal workers. In the context of a growing aging population also in the developing world, the debates around schemes to guarantee access to these informal workers to healthcare and to income security has become increasingly important. To help us understand more about the fundamental concepts, debates and trends around the social protection for older informal workers, in particular in SouthEast Asia, we invited Aura Sevilla. Aura is a specialist and an advocate on issues related to dignifying aging policies in SouthEast Asia and in the Phillipines, in particular, where she is based. She's currently an affiliated at WIEGO as the Programme Consultant in Southeast Asia and Older Workers.

#17 Universal Basic Income In South Africa

In this month, we will dive into the topic of universal basic income, or UBI. In South Africa, the government has recently announced the intention of implementing this policy in the country, which was regarded as a very important step. To help us understand more about universal basic income, its debates and how it is taking in the South African context, we invited Isobel Frye. Isobel is the director of the Studies in Poverty and Inequality Institute, she is also a commissioner at National Minimum Wage Commission, and she is a civil society representative at the South Africa’s National Development Economic Council, a body responsible for the introduction of economic policies, where this debate is also taking place.

#16b Retos para Proteger a Los Medios de Vidas de Trabajadores Informales en Peru y Mexico

En este mes, volvemos al terreno para comprender cómo se están afectando los medios de vida de los trabajadores del sector informal en dos de los países de América Latina más afectados en la región por la crisis de Covid-19: México y Perú. Invitamos a dos especialistas que están trabajando estrechamente con los trabajadores informales. De México, Tania Espinoza, Coordinadora de la Ciudad Focal de la Ciudad de México en WIEGO. Y de Perú, traemos a Carmen Roca, Coordinadora de la Ciudad Focal de Lima, también de WIEGO. Ellas analizaran los principales desafíos en la aplicación de las políticas de los bonos de emergencia para proteger los ingresos de los trabajadores informales, los problemas de las respuestas del gobierno y algunas de las posibles soluciones para abordar estos temas.

Episode #16 - Challenges to Protect Informal Workers' Livelihoods in Peru and Mexico (June 30, 2020)

Carmen Roca and Tania Espinoza help us understand how the livelihoods of informal workers are being affected in two of the countries in Latin America most hit by the COVID-19 crisis: Mexico and Peru. They analyze the main challenges on the implementation of the emergency cash-grant policies to protect informal workers' income, the problems of government responses and some of the possible solutions to address these issues.

Episode #15 - Lessons from Government Responses to Protect Informal Workers with Valentina Barca (May 26, 2020)

And in this episode, we bring you the third and last part of the especial mini-series on social protection for informal workers in the context of the Covid-19 global pandemic. We will look more closely on how governments around the world are responding to the global crisis in order to address to the urgent social protection needs of vulnerable people, in particular, informal workers. To help us understand the main challenges and concrete issues policy makers are facing as the first government responses are being implemented, we invited Valentina Barca. Valentina is an independent consultant, and she is a specialist in social protection delivery systems. She is part of a multi-disciplinary research team, called SPACE, that is working to provide policy analysis to the responses on social protection during this global pandemic, in order to support countries to think about how to better address to the current crisis. Valentina analyses issues related to the targeting of informal workers, patterns in government responses, implementation problems that emerge; why some countries are responding quicker and more effectively than others, and which are the challenges and lessons to reach informal workers, that we can take from the policies that are being implemented.

Episode #14 - Impact of the Global Pandemic on Informal Workers (May 2, 2020)

Episode #13 - Sally Roever Talks About Protecting Informal Workers in the Pandemic (April 1, 2020)

Episode #12 - Child Care Models for Informal Women Workers (March 3, 2020)


Episode #11 - Statistics, Social Protection and the Informal Economy (January 29, 2020)

Françoise Carré and Francie Lund talk numbers in this episode. Statistics are a powerful tool to shed light on the informal economy, and to make informal workers visible in policy arenas. This episode explores the linkages between social protection and statistics, the challenges, limitations and the most recent research.

November 21, 2019

#10 The Future of Work and the Missing Middle 

In this episode, we invite Christina Behrendt, head of the Social Policy Unit at the ILO, to talk about the relations between the Future of Work and the challenges to extend social protection to the so-called “missing middle” – the workers in the informal economy.

October 30, 2019

#09 Social Protection For Informal Workers in Togo

This episode offers an interview with Liliane Napoe of the Danish Trade Union Development Agency. Liliane is the International Adviser and Head of the West African sub-regional office, based in Lomé where she has been supporting informal workers in their efforts to expand social protection and to form a coalition to push for social rights for informal workers.

October 1, 2019

#08 Universal Health Coverage in Southeast Asia

WIEGO’s Social Protection programme director, Laura Alfers, was in Bangkok, Thailand, for the Association of South East Asian Nations People’s Forum (ASEAN People’s Forum), where civil society organization representatives gathered to prepare for the ASEAN Summit.

August 12, 2019

#07 Formalizing the Informal - The R204 Process

In 2015, the ILO’s International Labour Conference adopted the Recommendation about the Transition from the Informal to the Formal Economy, known as R204. Jane Barrett, WIEGO's Director of Organization & Representation, talks about what R204 is and why it matters  that governments get it right.


July 11, 2019

#06 Co-production of Social Services for Informal Workers

Who should bear the main burden of social service: the state, the private sector, NGOs, communities or individuals? This complex discussion is central to questions of inequality. To contribute to this debate, Laura Alfers published a paper for the UNRISD Conference “Overcoming Inequalities in a Fractured World: Between Elite Power and Social Mobilization” that took place in Geneva, and she talks with us about the issues.

June 10, 2019

#05 Domestic Workers and Violence in the Workplace

Violence and harassment in the workplace affect many workers all over the world, especially women. It is such a pervasive phenomenon that it was included in the agenda of the next International Labour Conference, which will take place in Geneva, where the issue will be up for a second round of discussions with a view to the adoption of an ILO convention.


May 10, 2019

#04 Child Care and the Informal Economy

Child care is often regarded as part of the education policy, centred on early childhood care and development. But child care is also the provision of a service that has a close relation to social protection and women's economic empowerment.

April 7, 2019

#03 Occupational Health and Safety and Waste Pickers

World Health Day is celebrated on April 7th. To mark this date, this episode examines a crucial issue: occupational health and safety. Health and safety measures at work play an important role in workers' quality of life and their capacity to have a steady and sustainable livelihood. And this is even more crucial for informal workers, who are often left out of regulations that assure a safe work environment.


#02 Urban Infrastructure, Social Protection and Women Informal Workers

March is the month when International Women’s Day is celebrated across the world. It is also when the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, CSW, holds its annual session in New York. This year, the priority theme is: “Social Protection Systems, Access to Public Services and Sustainable Infrastructure for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women and Girls”. This episode addresses specific issues that women informal workers face.


#01 Informal Economy and Social Protection

In this first episode, we discuss some of the more fundamental and general issues about social protection and informal employment.

Informal Economy Theme