Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO) is a global research-policy network that seeks to improve the status of the working poor, especially women, in the informal economy through better statistics, research, programs, and policies and through increased organization and representation of informal workers. The individuals and institutions in the WIEGO network are drawn from three broad constituencies: membership-based organizations of informal workers; research, statistical, and academic institutions; and development agencies of various types (non-governmental, governmental, and inter-governmental). The common motivation for those who join the network is the troubling lack of recognition and support for the informal economy, especially the women who work in it, by policy makers and the international development community.
Over the past two decades, the informal economy has grown rapidly in all regions of the world, emerging in unexpected places and in new guises. In developing economies, the majority of the working poor, more so women, work in the informal economy. In transition economies, many retrenched workers and many so-called ‘unemployed’ work in the informal economy. And, in developed countries, an increasing share of paid workers is hired under flexible employment arrangements and a not-insignificant share of the total workforce is self-employed. Available evidence suggests that those who work in the informal economy, especially women, have lower average earnings and higher average risks than those who work in the formal economy. However, in the international debate on the links between globalization, growth, and poverty relatively little attention is paid to issues of labor and work and even less to issues of the working poor in the informal economy. It is the contention of the WIEGO network that the quantity and quality of work generated by different patterns of economic growth and trade liberalization are key determinants of whether or not poverty is reduced, and for whom; and that the relative neglect of work and labor issues (especially from the perspective of informal workers) represents a ‘missing link’ in the globalization-growth-poverty debate.