The New Urban Agenda (NUA) recognizes the role played by the urban informal economy and makes bold commitments to inclusive urban governance. This Brief draws on the work of the global research–action–policy network Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO) to review the state of knowledge on the urban informal economy in the context of ongoing deliberations on how to implement the NUA. It starts by presenting the latest available statistics on the size, composition and contribution of the informal economy in various regions, demonstrating that most non-agricultural jobs in the global South are informal. We then review existing and emerging frameworks for thinking about the informal economy, first in development studies and then in urban studies. We suggest that development studies pay more attention to diversity within the informal economy and multiple factors shaping it, and urban studies to the possibilities for inclusive urban planning and practice. Reflecting on the advocacy efforts of organizations of urban informal workers, we identify three broad categories of promising policy and practice: reducing the negatives, increasing the positives and inviting informal workers to the policy table. We argue this framework holds promise for realizing the NUA commitment to inclusive governance with the informal economy. This Brief draws on the Editorial in the October 2016 issue of Environment & Urbanization on “Urban livelihoods”.


Chen, Martha, Sally Roever, and Caroline Skinner. "Urban Livelihoods: Reviewing the Evidence in Support of the New Urban Agenda." Environment and Urbanization Brief No. 34 (November 2016).