Extending coverage: Social protection and the informal economy

Experiences and ideas from researchers and practitioners

Many of the workers in the formal economy can take certain things for granted: a regular income, health insurance, unemployment benefits if they lose their jobs, and a pension when they retire. Such things are a distant dream for workers in the informal economy, who in many countries make up most of the workforce. For them, unemployment, maternity or retirement can push their families deep into poverty. An illness or accident may mean hunger, homelessness and destitution.
Ensuring that such workers benefit from such social protection is important for both social and economic reasons. Informal workers contribute greatly to the broader economy so deserve its support in times of need. Access to health care can prevent an illness from getting worse and help someone return to work more quickly. Unemployment and maternity benefits help people cope with a temporary loss of income. It is in society’s interest to prevent retirees from falling into poverty.
Initiatives in various countries have shown that social protection can be extended to workers in the informal economy. This book draws on research and the experience of a team of specialists to offer guidelines and recommendations on what works. It focuses on three key aspects: the legal and institutional frame-work, access to social protection, and community-based social protection.