What We Do

Informal head load porter (or kayayei) Mamuna Mohammed carries bananas through Agbogbloshie Market in Accra, GhanaPhoto by Jonathan Torgovnik/Getty Images Reportage

WIEGO seeks to increase the voice, visibility and validity of the working poor, especially women.

  • Increased Voice –WIEGO works to support and strengthen organizations of the working poor and to link organizations together. We also help them gain representation in the policy making and rule-setting bodies that affect their work and lives.
  • Increased Visibility – WIEGO undertakes and sponsors research and helps to develop and improve official statistics on informal employment and the informal economy. Our publication series and website offer a wealth of knowledge about the informal economy.  
  • Increased Validity – WIEGO promotes the mainstream recognition of informal workers as legitimate economic agents who contribute to the overall economy and are legitimate beneficiaries of economic and social policies. We also advance the incorporation of informal workers into policymaking and rule-setting processes.

Members of the Union of Women and Men Domestic Workers of the Lima regionPhoto by Juan Arredondo/Getty Images Reportage

 Membership-based organizations (MBOs) of informal workers are involved in the identification, prioritization and design of all of our activities. We disseminate the findings, data, and case studies generated – and related lessons learned – widely.

Read more about our work with informal workers in Asia, Latin America and Africa.

Core Programmes

Organization & Representation Programme

Organization & RepresentationOrganization & Representation supports the development of membership-based organizations (MBOs) – trade unions, cooperatives, and worker associations – that are democratic and representative, as well as national and international alliances and networks. The programme provides capacity-building support to organizations of informal workers; builds knowledge on the organization of informal workers through the development of a database on workers' organizations and case studies; and produces education and capacity building resources to help informal workers understand their rights as workers and citizens and to build effective organizations. We also work to develop confident and effective women leaders in all sectors and organizations of the informal economy.

Statistics Programme

StatisticsThe Statistics Programme seeks to develop statistics on the informal economy as an essential component of mainstream or official statistics at national, regional and international levels. The programme contributes to improving classifications, concepts and methods for data collection and for estimating the contribution of informal employment to national economies It also encourages countries to collect and improve data on these topics.

The programme also aims to prepare statistical data and analysis on the size, composition and contribution of the informal economy and the characteristics and situation of those who work in it, and to make these data available to policymakers, researchers and advocates in easily accessible formats. It also promotes data-based research on informal sector, informal employment and related topics.

Law and the Informal Economy Programme

Urban PoliciesThe Law Programme was launched in October 2015. The programme aims to analyze and improve legal and regulatory frameworks for informal workers and empower workers’ organizations to fight for their recognition and rights as workers on a local and international level. The programme builds on the work achieved by the Law and the Informal Economy Project.

Social Protection Programme

Social ProtectionSocial Protection investigates  how common contingencies and systemic shocks affect informal workers, how the nature of informal work creates risks specific to informal workers, and whether and how informal workers gain access to social protection. It also aims to identify, document, and promote innovative approaches to providing social protection to informal workers, whether this involves extending the coverage of existing schemes or developing new schemes. Occupational health and safety for informal workers is a major component of this programme, as is a Child Care Initiative.

Urban Policies Programme

Urban PoliciesUrban Policies seeks to enhance the capacity of informal workers to shape the urban policies and environment in which they live and work. This work is informed by a vision in which the informal economy is recognized as central to the economy of towns and cities in the developing world: a future where urban authorities have prioritized the provision of basic infrastructure services to the working poor and their integration into local economic development. The programme directly addresses the biases that currently underpin exclusionary practices; increases the visibility of informal workers through research, good practice documentation, and the analysis and dissemination of news; and gives technical support to informal workers’ organizations.

Special Initiatives

Devi-ben carrying waresWIEGO undertakes Special Initiatives that supplement or augment the activities of our core Programmes and Global Projects. These  include technical and policy dialogues; collaborative research and advocacy; commissioned research for international agencies; and conferences or public events. For example, WIEGO co-organized a series of Exposure Dialogues between 2004 and 2011 with Cornell University and the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) of India. These dialogues help bridge the perspectives on employment and labour markets of mainstream economists, SEWA activists and WIEGO researchers.


Global Projects

In recent years, WIEGO coordinated two Global Projects that involved partnerships with membership-based organizations of informal organizations. WIEGO provided technical support and expertise, and leveraged and managed funding:

1) Inclusive Cities for the Working Poor 
2) Women’s Economic Empowerment