Social Protection for Informal Workers


Informal workers are identified as individuals with casual work arrangements or no fixed salary. Worldwide, there are approximately 2 billion informal workers and they represent social protection’s missing majority. The exclusion of informal workers from social protection contravenes international human rights and labour standards, and is also likely to undermine economic recovery, particularly in low-income countries where informal employment predominates. In the context of this webinar, we consider two categories of informal workers: the poor and non-poor informal workers (e.g. workers that engage in street vending, home-based work, waste picking, domestic jobs, and other short-term contracts). Identifying, localizing, and reaching informal workers with the available instruments is challenging. Governments need to establish an innovative suite of instruments to respond to the specific needs of informal workers.  

Due to the range of types of employment and incomes in the informal economy, to provide coverage for this group of workers, social protection programmes should combine elements of both social assistance and social insurance. This requires consideration on how to make social insurance and other contributory programmes more inclusive of workers outside of a standard employment relationship – and how to ensure a closer integration of social assistance and insurance programmes.  

COVID-19 social protection responses have generated innovative experiences and present an opportunity for learning and better preparing for future large-scale shocks that also affect informal workers. This knowledge base needs to be capitalized in the years to come if the vision for ‘Universal Social Protection’ and the realization of SDG targets 1.2 and 1.3 are to be achieved.  

Amongst those innovations, the World Bank proposes to develop innovative social insurance schemes for non-poor informal workers that allow for short-term as well as long-term savings. In order to manage those, the World Bank puts forward the vision of social insurance platforms for the informal economy that are integrated with other social protection platforms. Such a social insurance platform would be part of an ecosystem that includes a social registry, identification systems, a contribution collection system, and a payments infrastructure. It could also be linked to other systems based on country-specific needs. One key message of the World Bank’s report is that the integration of social insurance schemes and social assistance programs through a digital platform can have positive spillover effects like graduation of safety net beneficiaries, creation of shock-responsive systems, and improving financial inclusion. 

Nevertheless, there are still many important gaps in terms of both evidence and support to innovations in the extension of social protection to informal workers. 

The event was devised to:  

  1. Provide a deeper understanding of the heterogeneity of the informal economy and the different social protection instruments (social insurance, social assistance, and economic inclusion) targeted at informal workers during the COVID-19 crisis (SPACE) 
  2. Present and discuss innovative social insurance schemes for non-poor informal workers, how digital technology and behavioral science can contribute to the innovation of social insurance for informal workers, and the idea of operationalizing the schemes with an integrated social insurance platform (World Bank) 

This was the 5th session of the ASPects Practice Exchange on Adaptive Social Protection Webinar Series and within this framework is particularly related to the Building Block “Programs and Delivery Systems” of the WB’s Adaptive Social Protection framework.   



Laura Alfers, Director of Social Protection Programme, WIEGO 

Melis U. Guven, Senior Social Protection Economist, the World Bank 

Regis Hitimana, Deputy Director General of Rwanda Social Security Board, Government of Rwanda 

Joanne Sharpe, Independent Consultant


Moderator: Silas Theile, Social Protection Advisor, GIZ


This was the fifth webinar in the "ASPects – Practice Exchange on ASP" series. These webinars are dedicated to bringing together practitioners, leading experts, and policy makers to share and exchange perspectives on Adaptive Social Protection (ASP). Each webinar within the series will focus on specific practically relevant aspects of one related ASP Building Block (Institutional arrangements and partnerships - Programs - Data and information - Finance). The series, organised by the GIZ Global Program Social Protection Innovation and Learning (SPIL) on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) in cooperation with and other partners, aims at informing the global public policy dialogue on building back better systems and better preparedness for future shocks.