Informal work is a major contributor to economic activity in many cities. In developing countries, half to three-quarters of all non-agricultural employment is informal. Many informal workers and businesses, such as street vendors and waste pickers, depend on access to the open and public spaces of the city for their livelihoods.
Even though informal workers contribute to the economic vibrancy, human activity and even management of public spaces in cities, they face multiple challenges, ranging from insufficient infrastructure and storage facilities to security concerns and harassment.
A new Cities Alliance grant to Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO) aims to deepen the understanding of the role access to public space plays for the livelihoods and productivity of working poor women and men in the informal economy. The grant will fund a project titled “Inclusive Public Spaces Create Vibrant Cities: Informal Livelihoods and the Role of Public Space,” part of the Cities Alliance Joint Work Programme (JWP) for Equitable Economic Growth.
Cities Alliance Member WIEGO is a global network focused on supporting livelihoods for the working poor in the informal economy, and will build on its vast experience and extensive network of organisations of informal workers for the project.
The activity will engage organisations of informal workers as well as Cities Alliance and JWP members to compile state-of-the-art knowledge and showcase good-practice examples from cities around the world. The findings will be communicated through a range of communications and advocacy products, including videos and toolkits. By targeting informal workers’ organisations, local governments, and development partners, these products aim to enable informed decision making, better management and regulation of urban public space.
“In cities right around the world, rules about what people may and may not do in public spaces – like streets and parks and the precincts of public institutions – have an important impact on the livelihoods and working conditions of the many millions of women and men who work in the informal economy. The street vendors who sell the daily necessities of life and keep the wheels of the city economy turning, and the waste pickers who keep the city clean and reduce its carbon footprint by recycling as much as possible of what is thrown away, rely on access to public spaces,” notes Martha Chen, International Coordinator for the WIEGO Network.
“The WIEGO network is very pleased to have this opportunity to research in greater depth and detail the links between the degree and quality of access to public space and the ability of informal workers to earn a decent living, and we look forward to developing practical informative tools that will help to guide those who work in public spaces and those officials charged with regulating such spaces,” Ms. Chen said.
Improving access to public space and supporting the productivity of the informal sector are both priority areas of the JWP for Equitable Economic Growth, which focuses on improving access to key public goods and services as pathways to economic development that benefit all urban residents. As a member of the JWP, WIEGO will implement the project over a 12-month period. The knowledge products created will inform the global policy dialogues and local level diagnostic work of the JWP.