A collaboration between Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO) and WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities, finds that more inclusive approaches are crucial – and beneficial – as cities cannot become more equal or more economically productive if they exclude the vast majority of their workforce, especially the working poor.

What do these informal workers need to become more productive? Street vendors need public space in good locations to vend. Waste pickers need the right to bid for public procurement contracts to collect, sort and recycle waste. Home-based workers need equitable access to core public services. With these needs met, they can be even more productive and have greater security as they contribute to the city’s economy. In “Including the Excluded,” the authors examine innovative ways some cities have found to work with home-based workers, street vendors and waste pickers that can be replicated around the globe.

Four key recommendations emerge from these examples of positive integration:

  1. Increase informal workers’ access to public services, public spaces and public procurement. To better harness and encourage economic growth, city governments and local officials should acknowledge the economic contribution informal workers make to the urban economy and reduce harassment and penalization. Cities should provide core public services to informal workers to make their workplaces more productive; grant regulated access to public space; and allow organizations of informal workers to compete for public procurement.
  2. Reform laws and regulations so they support informal workers. City governments and local officials should make it easier for the informal self-employed to register their businesses, as well as make taxation progressive and transparent, and assess what taxes and operating fees informal workers already pay. And they should extend benefits to workers in exchange for paying taxes.
  3. Include informal worker leaders in participatory policymaking and rule-setting processes. Cities should integrate informal economy activities into local economic development plans and urban land allocation plans. Informal settlements are often thriving industrial hubs and house many home-based businesses. Cities should also recognize and protect natural markets for vendors, and recognize that waste pickers contribute to cleaning streets, reclaiming recyclables and reducing carbon emissions.
  4. Support coalitions for change. All of the inclusive approaches highlighted in the paper were brought about by coalitions for change comprised of organizations of informal workers, supported by activist allies. Coalitions for change help monitor and highlight the situation on the ground, create awareness with the media, organize policy dialogues and provide technical assistance to advocacy campaigns.

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