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Informal workers and COVID-19: evidence-based responses to the crisis at the base of the economic pyramid

This project focuses on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and associated lockdowns on the livelihoods and health of poor workers, especially women, in the informal economy. Over 90% of workers in developing countries are informally employed, with higher rates of informal employment for women. While the impact of the pandemic has been catastrophic for these workers, evidence on how they are affected is not yet available to inform a policy response, especially during the recovery phase.

The informal economy is so diverse that nuanced information is required about how the crisis exacerbates existing vulnerabilities for different groups of informal workers and about how different groups of informal workers contribute as essential frontline workers. This project will do so using a mixed-methods longitudinal study that includes a large-scale survey of informal workers spanning over 10 cities across eight countries, with a focus on four groups that predominantly employ women: domestic workers, home-based workers, street vendors, and waste pickers.

The findings will inform policies and actions needed to address the impacts of the pandemic. They will also highlight how existing responses are affecting informal workers in ways that deepen or reduce inequalities. Ultimately, this project will contribute novel and contextually grounded evidence to ensure a fundamental rethink of the underlying injustices and inequities that exacerbate the negative impact of the pandemic on informal workers, with a focus on women.

Project ID
Project Status
End Date
24 months
IDRC Officer
Martha Melesse
Total Funding
CA$ 941,500.00
South Africa
Governance and Justice
Institution Country
United Kingdom
Project Leader
Sarah Reed
Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO) Limited

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