Please see below the questions and comments from the audience. We invite you all to send your comments and let us know if you have any further questions on the topic. 

 

Question 1: Why does PR China have such a large group of informal workers? (From Brigitte Spaeth)

China has many workers in informal employment, many of whom are own account workers in the informal sector, see more information here.

 

Question 2: Does 'accommodation' services in this sense include domestic workers in private households? (From Annamarie Kiaga)

The reference to accommodation and food services refers to the classification by sector of the economy (International Standard Industrial Classification of All Economic Activities (ISIC)) and does not include domestic workers in private households (Accommodation and food services are classified in the section “I”, while domestic work would be classified under “T. Activities of households as employers; undifferentiated goods- and services-producing activities of households for own use”. See more information here.

 

COMMENT from Annamarie Kiaga: Yes, reach out to the informal economy is challenging. I look forward to hearing if any creative measures are being taken e.g. using the savings and credit groups, or association of informal economy workers.

In several countries, informal worker organizations have played a vital linking role between informal workers and the state. In Argentina, for example, social registry databases have been supplemented by membership information from the Union de Trabajadores y Trabajadoras de la Economia Popular (UTEP). In Thailand, HomeNet Thailand has actively worked to help their members register online for the benefit offered by governments. In a number of African countries, we are seeing the government and major agencies working on social protection thinking about how to leverage membership databases from informal worker organizations. I think more work could be done on thinking about how to work with savings and credit groups, and these often have high female membership.

 

Question 3: How best do you locate and reach informal workers to register them for benefits? (From Ruby Khan)

This was briefly addressed in the webinar, and we would refer in particular to the two slides in the presentation by Laura Alfers on this point. Watch the recording here.

 

Question 4: Laura mentioned that some governments are using the crisis as an excuse to take over informal workers' livelihoods, like the example in Colombia. How do we prevent this from happening? Is there any evidence on what causes this in some countries and not in others? (From Patricia Velloso)

The cause of this is I think a more generalized view of the informal economy as undesirable, a source of crime and grime, and a drain on national productivity. In countries where there is a more positive understanding of the role of the informal economy as valid economic actors, it is perhaps less likely that we see these types of actions. One way to address this is by emphasizing the contradiction that this sets up with social protection. Many governments are putting a lot of time, money and effort trying to work out how to provide social protection to informal workers. Can we use these attempts towards protection to emphasize that this should be the approach taken by the whole of government – including local authorities? Read more about myths and facts on the informal economy here.

 

Question 5: What About Mexico, to reach the informal Workers? There’s is an analysis how Mexico is reaching these sectors? (From Jorge Ruiz Torres)

Mexico City city hall will give vouchers of up to MXN 350(US$ 14) in three instalments, every 15 days, to 458,000 vulnerable people who have been affected by the health emergency of the coronavirus. The vouchers will be distributed in each district - and it will be valid inside each region only, for local commerce (local grocery shops, bakeries). However, the policy is restricted to Mexico City dwellers - informal workers from other surrounding towns who work in Mexico City are not eligible. Read more.

In Mexico City, WIEGO launched the campaign “Los Rifados de la Basura,” to raise awareness about the precarious conditions and demands of Mexico City’s volunteer waste pickers (trabajadores voluntarios) in the context of COVID-19 and more generally. The campaign calls on the public to sort trash at source and clearly mark contaminated material to reduce hazards to waste pickers, among other demands. Because of pressure from the campaign, and Tania’s advocacy at the Mexico City Commission of Human Rights, the Commission issued a recommendation to Mexico City government to conduct a census of volunteer waste pickers and to provide them with protective equipment. The campaign has also been picked up and promoted by several key journalists and public figures.

The WIEGO team has been facilitating the donation of masks from a well-known art gallery, Kurimanzutto, to MBO partners.

 

Question 6: How the countries could take advantage of the need for social protection benefits in these particularly tough times to extend social protection coverage to the informal workers? (From Nuno de Castro)

Many countries have indeed taken immediate measures to close coverage gaps for informal workers, yet some of these efforts remain rather ad-hoc and punctual. There is indeed an opportunity for governments to turn such crisis-response measures into more sustainable policy solutions that improve social protection coverage. Yet, there is also the risk that many countries could soon move into fiscal consolidation and austerity policies that could thwart these efforts. It is therefore essential to work towards “building back better”, including through an inclusive social dialogue. See in particular the two slides on options in the presentation by Laura Alfers. See also the resources available on the ILO COVID-19 Social Protection Response page, including a monitor of country responses, several briefs and a rapid cost calculator, see here.

 

Question 7: Short term best practices of taking non-cash assistance to advance informal worker mechanisms into a more long-term solutions are needed. But given we are inside a political situation where income polarization and COVID risks can become a much larger obstacle than ever for informal workers. So how can we bring these best practices to light and be given serious consideration by policymakers? (From Paul Tulloch)

Indeed, there is a need to find long-term solutions to close coverage gaps for informal workers, promote decent work and progressively facilitate their transition from the informal to the formal economy. It is therefore essential to work towards “building back better”, including through an inclusive social dialogue. See in particular the two slides on options in the presentation by Laura Alfers, as well as this recent paper by ILO. The ILO will also publish another paper on this topic later this week – it will be available here.

 

Question 8: Cash transfers often burden women, who sometimes need to travel considerable distances to get their benefits. Is there any example, among the current response, which is gender-sensitive in that sense? I have only seen examples of "gender-sensitiveness" regarding targeting/coverage, but nothing on the benefit delivery... Additionally, is there any recommendation on how to unburden women in this context of social isolation? (From Patricia Velloso Cavallari)

This question was addressed in the webinar. Watch the Q&A session here.

 

Question 9: Are there any opportunities emerging at the macro level which could be helpful for informal sector in the long run (e.g. formalization of unorganised sector) in countries with high proportion of informal sector such as India? If yes, could they be harnessed systematically through Government intervention? (From Katyayan Sharma)

This question was addressed in the webinar. Watch the Q&A session here.

 

Question 10: Any examples of targeting out approaches in contexts of low system capacity (low coverage, weak MIS, low # of IDs)? (From Florencia Alejandre)

No specific examples but see this very useful twitter thread from Valentina Barca which gives a great summary of options in more detail than my presentation. Click here.

 

Question 11 to Laura: Where did the money come from for the programs? Was the money requested from IMF? (From Santiago Roman)

It depends on the country. Certainly, in some cases there have been loans from international financial institutions. But many governments have also found creative ways to mobilize resources domestically. For example, some of South Africa’s R500 billion rescue packaged was financed through the large surplus in the Unemployment Insurance Fund. Some creative suggestions for financing options from the Institute of Economic Justice in South Africa can be found here.

 

Question 12: Could the presenters please share any examples of how migrant workers have been accommodated? Some countries have large numbers of informal migrant workers and their position during crisis could be more vulnerable than usual. An insight into how to support this group would be great. (From Abidemi Coker)

This question was addressed in the webinar. Watch the Q&A session here.

 

Question 13: Is that are there points in informal economy recommendation regarding global health crisis? and what is the situation of this instrument in countries? (From Younes Charbgoo)

Indeed, the ILO Transition from the Informal to the Formal Economy Recommendation, 2015 (No. 204) is very relevant in this respect. This instrument has helped to raise awareness about the need to improve working conditions and social protection to those in the informal economy, and facilitate their transition to the formal economy. Many countries have already taken important measures in this direction, but the COVID-19 pandemic has also pointed to many remaining gaps. The ILO and others have called for more action in this regard. The ILO will also publish another paper on this topic later this week – it will be available here.

 

Question 14: If I understood these findings / possible solutions are based in the assumption that SP is in place and targeting is possible. What could be the scenario in a country where the ecosystem is not prepared? For example, most poor countries face challenges in the registration of SP beneficiaries even in "normal" times, payments are in cash and there are no measures to support informal workers? How can the international community do to support countries like this in particular during this period of crisis? (Filipa Costa)

There are some solutions to “targeting in” informal workers given in my slides (after the table on general options). This includes working with organizations of informal workers to register members (see also Answer to Q2). Creative solutions to work with civil society and organizations outside of the state are going to be important in these contexts.

 

Question 15: Laura Alfers stressed on the importance of looking beyond just giving out cash and/or food. Looking forward to how do we encourage these informal workers to stay in the system and if possible, to contribute to the social protection system? (From Nur Sazali)

Keeping workers within the system itself may not be difficult as registries are expanded. However, promoting contributions will only be possible if there are wider attempts to ensure that jobs and livelihoods are improved to the point where contributions become possible for workers. In cases where informal incomes have been decimated, it will be impossible to ask workers to contribute. Some of the options for regenerating livelihoods can include interest-free loans and start-up capital, ensuring informal workers are included in state procurement policies, public works programmes, re-training programmes and so on. Without active intervention, many informal workers will be too poor to contribute.