Parallel session
Effects on informal workers

The evolving category of ‘essential services’ has found new meaning in the context of a global pandemic. The role of many groups of informal workers as ‘essential service’ providers or ‘essential workers’ has been highlighted. While the roles of these types of workers in providing essential services have been made visible, the value attached to informal workers has been lacking. 

In this session panelists and discussants will reflect on the uneven effects of the crisis on, and within, the informal economy and the various ways in which the real costs of the pandemic-cum-lockdowns have been shifted onto informal workers. In addition a key focus will be on the ways in which these impacts intersect with pre-existing inequalities in labour markets and pre-existing social disadvantages by race/ethnicity/caste and by gender.  


Session convened by UNU-WIDER and WIEGO

Kunal Sen | Chair

Kunal Sen has over three decades of experience in academic and applied development economics research. He is the author of eight books and the editor of five volumes on the economics and political economy of development. From 2019 he is the Director of UNU-WIDER, and he is a professor of development economics at the Global Development Institute, University of Manchester.

Robert Osei | Presenter

Robert Darko Osei is an Associate Professor in the Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER), University of Ghana, Legon, and also the Vice Dean for the School of Graduate Studies at the University of Ghana. His main areas of research include evaluative poverty and rural research, macro and micro implications of fiscal policies, aid effectiveness and other economic development policy concerns.

Michael RoganMike Rogan | Presenter

Michael Rogan is a research associate in the Urban Policies Programme of the global research-policy-action network Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing. He is based at Rhodes University in South Africa where he is an Associate Professor in Economics and Economic History and a member of the Neil Aggett Labour Studies Unit. 

Marty Chen | Presenter

Marty ChenMartha (Marty) Chen is a Lecturer in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School and Senior Advisor of the global network Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing ( An experienced development practitioner and scholar, her area of specialization is the working poor in the informal economy. Dr Chen received a PhD in South Asia Regional Studies from the University of Pennsylvania; and was awarded a Padma Shri by the Government of India. Dr. Chen is Chair of the WIDER Board.

Hossain Zillur RahmanZillur Hossain Rahman | Presenter

Zillur Hossain Rahman is Founder-Chair of Dhaka-based Power and Participation Research Centre. He was a member of the Independent South Asian Commission on Poverty Alleviation. Dr Rahman was Advisor (Cabinet Minister) for Ministries of Commerce and Education in the Caretaker Government of Bangladesh (2007-08). Since 2019, he has been Chairperson, BRAC Bangladesh.

Imraan Valodia | Discussant

Imraan ValodiaImraan Valodia is Dean of the Faculty of Commerce, Law and Management at Wits University. His research interests include inequality, competition policy, employment, the informal economy, gender and economic policy, and industrial development. Imraan has led the initiative at Wits to establish the Southern Centre for Inequality Studies - a multi-disciplinary, cross-country initiative to promote research and policy change to promote greater equality in the global South.

Ravi Kanbur | Discussant

Ravi KanburRavi Kanbur is T. H. Lee Professor of World Affairs at Cornell University. He has served on the senior staff of the World Bank, including as Economist of the Africa Region and as Director of the World Development Report. He has also published in the leading economics journals, including American Economic Review, Journal of Political Economy, Review of Economic Studies and Economic Journal.