COVID-19 and the Informal Economy

Impact, Recovery and the Future

A key challenge for the post-COVID global economy is whether the disproportionate impact of the crisis on informal workers, who form the majority of the world’s workforce, will be acknowledged. Or whether harmful and negative stereotypes will persist.

Today, despite the role of these essential frontline workers many observers consider the informal economy to be non-compliant (resisting registration and taxation) and associate it with low productivity (a drag on the economy) or with crime (illegal activities) and grime (blight on modern cities).

Yet, most informal workers are working poor trying to earn an honest living in often hostile environments. Most suffered severe declines in work and earnings during successive waves of the COVID pandemic, and related restrictions and recessions, and have gone deeper into debt and depleted their savings and assets in order to survive. 

This book explores and informs answers to that key challenge. It presents findings on the impact of the COVID crisis on informal workers in Asia, Africa and North and Latin America. The chapters of the volume analyse the impact of the COVID crisis on informal workers, interrogate whether and which economic recovery plans and schemes include informal workers and explore what a more inclusive economic recovery and reforms might look like.

Table of contents
  1. 1. Introduction: COVID-19 and the Informal Sector
    Martha Chen, Michael Rogan, Kunal Sen
    2. COVID-19 and Informal Work: Degrees and Pathways of Impact in 11 Cities around the World
    Martha Chen, Erofili Grapsa, Ghida Ismail, Sarah Orleans Reed, Michael Rogan, Marcela Valdivia
    More Working Paper | COVID-19 and informal work
  3. 3. Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Employment: National labour surveys in five Latin American countries and field research in 11 cities around the world
    Martha Chen, Joann Vanek
    More Working Paper | COVID-19 and informal work
  4. 4. Impact of COVID-19 on Employment and Earnings in Ghana
    Michael Danquah, Robert Darko Osei, Simone Schotte, Kunal Sen
    More Report | How COVID-19 is affecting workers and their livelihoods in urban Ghana
  5. 5. South Africa’s Informal Economy and COVID-19: Differentiated Impacts and an Uneven Recovery
    Michael Rogan, Caroline Skinner
    More Working Paper | The COVID-19 crisis and the South African informal economy
  6. 6. Impact of COVID-19 on Urban Vulnerable Livelihoods: Accounts from Residents of Cape Town’s Largest Township
    Simone Schotte, Rocco Zizzamia
    More Working Paper | The livelihood impacts of COVID-19 in urban South Africa
  7. 7. Recovery with Distress: Unpacking COVID-19 Impact on Livelihoods and Poverty in Rural Areas and Urban Low-Income Settlements of Bangladesh
    Hossain Zillur Rahman, Atiya Rahman, Md Saiful Islam, Avinno Faruk, Imran Matin, Mohammad Abdul Wazed, Umama Zillur
    More Working Paper | Recovery with distress: unpacking COVID-19 impact on livelihoods and poverty in Bangladesh
  8. 8. The COVID-19 Pandemic and Intra-household Bargaining: A Case of Domestic Workers in Delhi
    Deepita Chakravarty, Nandini Nayak
    More Working Paper | The COVID-19 pandemic and poor women’s agency
    9. The Uneven Path to Recovery: The Sub-Saharan African Experience
    Michael Danquah, Amina Ebrahim, Maureen Were
    More Working Paper | The uneven path to recovery
  10. 10. Informal Employment and an Inclusive Recovery: What Is Missing from National Economic Recovery Plans?
    Siviwe Mhlana, Rachel Moussié, Sally Roever, Michael Rogan
    More Working Paper | Informal employment: what is missing from national economic recovery plans?
    11. Social Protection, the COVID-19 Crisis, and the Informal Economy: Lessons from Relief for Comprehensive Social Protection
    Laura Alfers, Florian Juergens-Grant
    More Working Paper | Social protection, the COVID-19 crisis, and the informal economy
  12. 12. A New Social Contract Inclusive of Informal Workers
    Martha Chen, Sophie Plagerson, Laura Alfers
    More Working Paper | A new social contract inclusive of informal workers
  13. 13. Reflections on Informal Employment, COVID-19, and the Future
    Ravi Kanbur, Jayati Ghosh, Barbara Harriss-White, Jan Breman
  14. 14. Conclusion: What the COVID-19 Crisis Tells Us about the Future of Informal Employment
    Martha Chen, Michael Rogan, Kunal Sen
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