Informal Economy Monitoring Study (IEMS)

An in-depth study, led by WIEGO, into the realities that informal waste pickers, street vendors and home-based workers face in 10 cities on 3 continents generated a wealth of knowledge. This was leveraged by informal workers' organizations and led to positive outcomes.

IEMSThe Informal Economy Monitoring Study (IEMS) evaluates the realities that informal workers face across 10 cities (below). Qualitative and quantitative research done in 2012 combined to offer an in-depth understanding of how home-based workers, street vendors, and waste pickers are affected by economic trends, urban policies and practices, value chain dynamics, and other economic and social forces.

The study also examines contributions made by urban informal workers, their linkages to the formal economy, and which governments, institutions, and membership-based organizations help or hinder their work and lives.

FINDINGS: See city reports, sector reports and briefs 

Read the press release announcing IEMS findings: Study finds urban informal workers are integral to city economies but unsupported by city policies and practices (April 2014)

The 10 IEMS Cities
  • Accra (Ghana) - Street Vendors
  • Ahmedabad (India) - Home-Based Workers, Street Vendors
  • Bangkok (Thailand) - Home-Based Workers
  • Belo Horizonte (Brazil) - Waste Pickers
  • Bogota (Colombia) - Waste Pickers
  • Durban (South Africa) - Street Vendors, Waste Pickers
  • Lahore (Pakistan)- Home-Based Workers
  • Lima (Peru) - Street Vendors
  • Nakuru (Kenya) - Street Vendors, Waste Pickers
  • Pune (India) - Waste Pickers


The information and findings from this study were disseminated in each of the 10 cities to planning authorities, institutions that impact on economic employment programmes, and academic institutions. Advocacy materials, based on the study's findings, were prepared for MBOs as they engaged with the public authorities whose decisions impact informal livelihoods.

IEMS Fact Sheet

This two-pager offers some of the concrete outcomes of this action research


About the Research

The IEMS was led by WIEGO in consultation with its partners, the MBOs and support organizations who were part of the Inclusive Cities project. A Technical Advisory Committee of experts on the informal economy and on research methods provided ongoing support. Research methods were designed and honed in 2011-12, and research involving focus groups and surveys was undertaken in 2012.

City reports, sector reports and briefs were produced to showcase the research findings. Find them at IEMS Publications.

IEMS Partners


Coordinated by WIEGO, study partners include the following organizations: Asiye eTafuleni (South Africa); Asociación de Recicladores de Bogotá (ARB) (Bogota); Consorcio de Investigación Económica y Social (CIES) (Peru); FEDEVAL (Peru); Homenet Pakistan (Pakistan); Instituto Nenuca de Desenvolvimento Sustentável de Belo Horizonte (INSEA/BH) (Brazil); Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER) (Ghana);  Kagad Kach Patra Kashtakari Panchayat (KKPKP) (India); Kenya National Alliance of Street Vendors and Informal Traders (KENASVIT) (Kenya); Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) (India); and StreetNet Ghana Alliance (Ghana).


Imraan Valodia directed the project from 2012-14; Sally Roever, then WIEGO's Urban Research Director (now WIEGO's International Coordinator), then became the IEMS director. Research Officers Zoe Horn and Mike Rogan provided support. WIEGO’s then International Coordinator Marty Chen chaired the IEMS Technical Advisory Committee.

Past Activities

In April 2012 a research training workshop was held in Durban, South Africa. Forty researchers and 10 MBO coordinators from the 10 cities underwent intensive training in the research methods. Thanks to the organizational facilitation Imraan Valodia, who is directing the research project, and Inclusive Cities partner Asiye eTafuleni (AeT), these workshop participants were able to pilot the qualitative and quantitative methods with focus groups of home-based workers, street vendors, and waste pickers from the Warwick Junction area of Durban.

All cities conducted pilot surveys and interviews during  2012 and then began field research.

Analyzing the First Round of IEMS Data

In November 2012, a seven-day data analysis training workshop took place outside Durban, South Africa. The workshop, which had 46 participants, provided a chance to work jointly on analyzing the first round of data, collected between June-October 2012. Participants worked in their city teams to begin analyzing the data and structuring the final report. At the conclusion of the workshop, each city team submitted their work plan to the IEMS Technical Advisory Committee (TAC). Advocacy and dissemination strategies for the coming year were discussed.

Since data is captured from participatory focus group discussions and through a survey, much of the November workshop’s focus was on how to integrate qualitative and quantitative data. Caroline Moser of the University of Manchester, special advisor to the project, and her colleagues brought their experience in participatory methods to the facilitation of the training on qualitative data analysis.