Mexico City

Trovadores in a food court, Mexico City, Mexico.

The Invisible Service: Chronicles of Non-salaried Work in Mexico City

This publication highlights the stories of workers who are understood in Mexico as “non-salaried workers.” They are informal, self-employed workers in public spaces whose occupations include some of the oldest and most traditional forms of work in the city – shoe-shining, organ playing, and musicians, for example. Non-salaried workers are part of Mexico City’s cultural heritage and form a sizable part of the popular economy. In this e-book, different Mexican journalists accompany these workers in their daily lives and tell the story of their struggles and their contributions to making Mexico City what it is today.

Available in Spanish

musician CDMX photo Lorena Reyes
A non-salaried musician in Mexico City. Credit: Lorena Reyes Toledo

The Latest Statistics on Work in the Informal Economy in Mexico City

WIEGO does groundbreaking statistical work to visibilize the size and characteristics of the informal economy in cities across the world. Here is the latest from Mexico City: Informal Workers in Mexico City: A Statistical Snapshot, 2020.



The Work in Mexico City

Mexico City team

In Mexico City, more than half of the 9.4 million people in the labour force work informally. WIEGO's Focal City team works with organizations of street vendors, recyclers, domestic workers and non-salaried workers (including diverse groups such as musicians, artisans, coffee vendors and shoe shiners) to help them build organizational and individual capacity to advocate for their economic and human rights.

Our goals are:

  • Building capacity of informal workers and their organizations in areas such as: advocacy, regulatory frameworks and communications.
  • Supporting workers and their organizations in the development and dissemination of platforms of demands and/or recommendations on inclusive planning and regulatory frameworks in Mexico City.
  • Supporting MBOs to establish and engage with media and government to raise awareness of their contributions and to advocate for their policy priorities.

See the platform of demands from informal workers in Mexico City on how government must improve their working conditions and build a more inclusive city (Also available in Spanish.)

What are we working to achieve?

Social protections for domestic workers

Domestic workers in Mexico have secured multiple, historic victories in the past few years, including a Supreme Court ruling making social security protections obligatory for domestic workers in late 2018, and the ratification of C189 in December 2019. WIEGO has supported the movement through the development of new resources to promote the affiliation of domestic workers to the social security pilot. The CDMX team also commissioned a case study on the history of the domestic workers’ movement in Mexico, which will serve as a touchstone for new members to learn about the movements’ history of organizing and struggle.The case study was used to create a visual comic which provides a summary of this struggle.

Supportive regulations for non-salaried workers

The Mexico City constitution establishes the need for a revised regulation for non-salaried workers in public space. WIEGO has worked over several years to develop a draft regulation, together with non-salaried worker representatives, that is founded on two principles: eliminating discrimination and extending social protection. The draft regulation developed by workers with support from WIEGO is an innovative and supportive alternative to the current regulation, which has allowed for the exploitation and exclusion of non-salaried workers.

Integration of waste pickers into the formal solid waste management system

Mexico City's waste pickers (trabajadores voluntarios) are critical to the function of the metropolis' solid waste management system. They do the same work as many formal waste workers, but without contracts or protections. WIEGO aims to raise the visibility of informal recyclers in Mexico City and to support them in advocating for improved working conditions, protections and stable contracts from the city. This work has included:

  • An assessment of the human rights situation of waste pickers in Mexico City (in Spanish only)
  • A photo exhibit at “Museo de Tolerancia y Memoria” on the working conditions of these essential workers, as a way to raise public awareness about their contributions.
  • The “Los Rifados de la Basura” campaign to draw attention to the working conditions of Mexico City's waste pickers and to make a set of demands on the public and the government, around their safety and security, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 Impact on Informal Workers in Mexico City

The COVID-19 crisis and the informal economy: Informal Workers in Mexico City thumbnailThe COVID-19 crisis has hit Mexico City hard, and informal workers have been hit the hardest. Many of these workers lost their livelihoods completely during the start of the crisis in 2020. Since then, earnings have been slow to recover and workers across sectors continue to face severe economic and health hardships. WIEGO’s team in Mexico City conducted research on the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown on four sectors: street vendors, non-salaried workers, waste pickers and domestic workers. Read more about COVID-19 in the city and the results from the study here (Spanish only).

WIEGO also had the opportunity to document the experiences of a cross-section of workers, who spoke about the challenges before and since the pandemic. Below, you can watch a short documentary on the impact that COVID-19 has had on the lives of Mexican informal workers:

As part of the development of a roadmap to economic recovery for the informal economy in Mexico City, WIEGO has been exploring the potential of a minimo vital, or guaranteed minimum income. Minimo vital is a right in the Mexico City constitution.

Read WIEGO’s assessment of what it would take to implement a guaranteed minimum income in Mexico City (Spanish only).

Read more on WIEGO’s blog about the experiences of informal workers and what they need from their governments here: 

Publications and news:

News (Spanish only)


Top photo: Troubadours in a food court, Mexico City, Mexico. Credit: WIEGO
Informal Economy Topic
Informal Economy Theme