Social Protection: Notable Gains

Challenging the Economic Orthodoxies which Undermine Universal Social Protection

Our research project aims to produce research which challenges economic orthodoxies. At a global level, the Universal Social Protection 2030 (USP 2030) framework, which is linked to Sustainable Development Goal 1.3 and ILO labour standards, provides a key set of principles and actions which should underpin the extension of social protection to all, including informal workers, at national level.

The action points include the development of social protection systems which provide protection throughout the lifecycle, are based on a mixture of equitably financed social assistance, social insurance and other measures which provide income protection, and are contextually appropriate, rights-based, gender-sensitive, inclusive, and representative.

Although the USP 2030 framework has gained support from a variety of key social protection stakeholders, 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. 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, which in this moment of flux in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, may assert themselves more forcefully, but at the same time are more vulnerable to challenge. 

Joint project with StreetNet International to develop online workers education for social protection

WIEGO is collaborating with StreetNet International to develop an online workers education course for social protection. Although there are now a number of online social protection courses aimed at state officials, policymakers and development practitioners, there is a gap in providing this education for grassroots organizations of the working poor. WIEGO and StreetNet International will be piloting this course in the sub-Saharan Africa region before expanding to other regions. 

Guidelines for Informal Workers During the COVID-19 Pandemic 

Ready-to-use resources have been developed for traders within the informal economy, waste pickers and domestic workers. These multi-language guidelines are aimed at helping people in the informal economy to continue working safely during the pandemic. They also make recommendations to relevant authorities for actions and policies to enable this. Also, factsheets with health and safety information focus on waste pickers in Brazil and Ghana, home-based workers in India, and market and street traders and headload porters in Ghana

Improving Access to Social Protection for Domestic Workers in South Asia 

WIEGO and the International Domestic Workers Federation (IDWF) have embarked on a joint project aimed at improving access to social protection for domestic workers with the ultimate goal of empowering grassroots organizations of domestic workers to integrate social protection concerns into their organizing and bargaining strategies in the South Asia region.

Redefine urban planning for city markets to include child care facilities for women street vendors and market traders 

WIEGO is working with traders organizations in Accra,Ghana; Nakuru, Kenya; and Durban, South Africa to revise municipal guidelines and create new safer spaces for women workers and their children in markets. Bringing a young child to work may be the only child care option available and can allow for continuous breastfeeding as per WHO recommendations. Traders, in collaboration with researchers and NGO partners – such as Asiye eTafuleni in Durban – are calling on municipalities to secure space in urban plans and support quality child care services as part of their basic infrastructure investments in markets alongside water, sanitation and waste removal. 

Influencing the discipline and practice of Occupational Health & Safety

In June 2016, the special issue on the informal economy of New Solutions: A Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health Policy was published. The edition was co-edited by Francie Lund and Rajen Naidoo (professor of Environmental and Occupational Health at the University of KwaZulu-Natal), and contains several articles by WIEGO team and affiliates. It outlines barriers to improvements in the working environments of informal workers, while also highlighting what can be done, and what has been done in a number of innovative interventions. Many of the efforts featured were spearheaded by organizations of informal workers in the global south, sometimes with the active assistance of a formal trade union or union federation or in collaboration with municipal authorities.

Supporting our partner organizations to develop and implement innovative health solutions 

As part of the Rockefeller Foundation’s “Informal Workers Health Project”, in 2015 WIEGO and three of its partners, Asiye eTafuleni, SEWA and HomeNet Thailand developed innovative models for improving the access of workers to a range of different health services. In 2017, WIEGO supported the three organizations to implement pilot projects based on these models. Asiye eTafuleni experimented with promoting the better management of public toilets in urban trading areas, SEWA implemented three “health hubs” aimed at improving linkages between informal workers and the public health system, and HomeNet Thailand assisted workers to access Community Health Funds which can provide funding to promote better occupational health and safety for them.

Raising care and women workers' access to social protection in global policy spaces

WIEGO is collaborating with various UN agencies, global trade union federations, women’s rights and feminist organisations, and the early childhood development community to highlight the specific care needs and responsibilities of women informal workers in global policy spaces.  With the ILO, WIEGO published a policy brief series on Child Care for Workers in the Informal Economy and a review of Family Friendly Policies for Workers in the Informal Economy, also in collaboration with UNICEF. WIEGO has participated in several UN Women policy development processes regarding public care services including the Feminist Plan for Sustainability and Social Justice and the High Level Panel for Women’s Economic Empowerment. Alongside IDWF and other global trade union federations, WIEGO supports mobilisations of informal workers organisations around the annual Global Day of Action on Care Work

Informal Economy Theme