Organizing Informal Workers: Benefits, Challenges and Successes

By Martha Chen, Chris Bonner and Françoise Carré

The informal workforce represents more than half of all workers in most developing countries and a significant share of workers in developed countries. This paper summarizes the history and forms of organizing informal workers, providing a timeline of organizing, typologies of organization forms and strategies, and data on numbers of organizations by type, sectors and countries. It discusses what different groups of informal workers bargain or negotiate for, and with whom; and analyses the strategic goals, benefits and challenges of organizing. It presents some recent legal and policy victories by organizations of informal workers. The concluding section extracts some lessons learned and makes a few recommendations, especially for governments and policy makers.