Social Protection for Informal Workers

Globalisation has led to important changes in the nature of work, and workers access to social protection. In large parts of the global economy work is becoming increasingly informalised, both in important global export sectors as well as domestic production.

Social protection systems designed for formal employment are often inaccessible to informal workers and particularly women. Informal workers are subject to high levels of insecurity and vulnerability. They lack employment contracts and benefits or legal and social protection.

Globalisation has limited the ability of governments to finance social welfare programmes through public expenditure, but at the same time new actors and institutions have emerged as potential avenues for social protection. An important challenge is how to develop social protection in ways that can harness the contribution of all potential stakeholders to increase support for the expanding army of informal workers linked to the global economy. A global value chain approach provides a handle to explore the linkages between informal workers and social protection in the context of a global economy.

IDS was commissioned to study these new forms of social protection for informal workers in global value chains. Researchers used the case study of one sector – horticulture – drawing on the specific examples of fruit exports from Chile and South Africa to the United Kingdom. Researchers used the horticultural value chain to explore inter-connected employment, social risks,and social protection for informal workers in the sector.

Project details

start date
22 January 2002
end date
22 January 2003


Supported by
World Bank Group

Recent work