Dear WIEGO Colleagues and Friends,
Happy New Year to one and all. I hope that the togetherness of the holiday season, whether in person or in spirit, has brought you some respite from this year of uncertainty, and a sense of hope to bring along on our collective journey toward a more just future.
We ended 2021, the WIEGO Network’s 24th year, on a sobering note: the end-of-year launch of our Round 2 COVID-19 Crisis and the Informal Economy Study findings showed that informal workers’ earnings remain far below their pre-COVID-19 levels, while government support – which fell short to start with – stagnated. Hunger and debt are still pervasive, while fears around the virus continue as global vaccine inequality leaves many workers vulnerable.
Despite the challenges caused by the pandemic, membership-based worker organizations filled the gaps left by institutional support systems – and with impressive results. Their memberships grew; they mobilized relief and helped workers navigate access to aid; and, using WIEGO data and research, they successfully advocated for governments to recognize the essential roles they play in societies and economies worldwide.
But that wasn’t all.
Home-based workers from four regions united to create HomeNet International – a result of years of research, organizing and networking. The network brings a united global voice to home-based workers, who have been hit hard by the crisis. StreetNet International advanced the conversation on ways to extend social protection to workers in informal employment arrangements. For the first time last year, the International Labour Conference was held in two online sessions and WIEGO, StreetNet International, HomeNet International, the International Domestic Workers Federation and the Global Alliance of Waste Pickers developed platforms for the discussions on social protection in June and inequalities in the world of work in November. Together, we worked hard to highlight the essential role of informal workers and their needs for economic recovery.
These efforts all support our overarching priority at this critical moment: making the case that global economic recovery is not possible without the inclusion of more than half of the world’s workers. Policy processes need a fundamental reorientation of priorities, and policy tools need to reflect that reorientation. We cannot recover without the two billion people in the world who are working under informal employment arrangements. We must recognize and name the choices that perpetuate economic injustice, and remain steadfast in our commitment to shape better choices in the future.
In 2022, the WIEGO Team will be developing its next five-year strategic plan, and the WIEGO Network will hold its eighth General Assembly. As we begin to approach our 25th anniversary as a global network, we will reflect on the profound changes we have experienced since our founding, but also the mission and sense of solidarity that still guide us.
The pandemic has shown us more than ever that our strength is in unity. Let’s bring that strength to the New Year and see what we can do, together, in 2022.