IEMS City

Why the Informal Economy Monitoring Study?

In cities across the world today, many or most people work in the informal economy. The majority are poor, and do not choose informality as a way to hide from regulations, but out of necessity. As the 2008 global economic crisis revealed, these workers have no cushion to fall back on. Their income is critical to their households.

Informal work is also critical to city life. Informal workers make real and tangible contributions. They pay some form of tax. They provide crucial services to communities by providing affordable goods at convenient locations, by producing goods for the local and global market, and by subsidizing solid waste management plans through recycling. They buy from, and sell to, formal firms.

Given the size and contributions of the informal work force, policymakers and planners must ask how to better integrate informal employment into urban plans. How can cities be more inclusive and, ultimately, productive?

Inclusive Cities’ flagship research project, the Informal Economy Monitoring Study (IEMS), provides credible, grounded research on informal employment to answer these questions. It focuses on 10 cities and on three sector groups: home-based workers, street vendors, and waste pickers.

Reports for the city studies, as well as Sector Reports and Summaries for Waste Picking, Street Vending and Home-based Work can be accessed in the boxes below.