Informal worker organisation and social protection


Start date: 15 October, 2016 End date: 31 December, 2022 Project type: Research collaboration projects in Danida priority countries (Window 1) Project code: 16-05-RUC Countries: Kenya Tanzania Thematic areas: Production, industry and labour market, Lead institution: Roskilde University (RUC), Denmark Partner institutions: University of Greenwich (GRE), United Kingdom Mzumbe University (MU), Tanzania University of Nairobi (UoN), Kenya Project website: go to website (the site might be inactive) Project coordinator: Lone Riisgaard Total grant: 9,898,063 DKK

Project summary

This project will investigate emerging collective forms of informal worker organisation in the Global South (focusing on Kenya and Tanzania) and their implications for social protection. Rather than seeing a decrease in informal work due to globalization, for most workers in the Global South informality is the norm, leaving workers in isolation with uncertain, precarious livelihoods. Dominant ideas about social protection are based on the notion that the attainment and allocation of social protection is linked to institutions and workers associated with formal sector employment. Unfortunately, this means that social protection is beyond the reach of most of the world’s workers who are found in the informal economy.

At the same time, a myriad of cases of informal workers forming collective initiatives are emerging, as a means of gaining better representation or for claiming rights to or providing alternative forms of social protection. Examples include the collective representation of informal transport workers in Tanzania, informal petty trader associations in Kenya lobbying for inclusion in the national health insurance scheme or construction worker cooperatives in Tanzania pooling resources and accessing credit. Potentially such forms of organising can help to provide informal workers with access to social protection measures leading to improved empowerment and welfare.

From a development perspective the question arises as to how informal workers are responding in ways that might challenge dominant processes and ideas of social protection, and how effectively. Our proposed research will fill major gaps in knowledge on the rapidly changing incidence, nature and effectiveness of collective informal worker organisation in East Africa. By employing a political economy approach and using mixed, innovative methods this project will generate new knowledge and expand capacity in the North and South.



Midterm report:

-Primary mapping of the three sectors.
-First engagement with key stakeholders in Kenya and Tanzania
-Extensive Literature reviews conducted on the three sectors in Kenya and Tanzania as well as an overall literature review of approaches used to study informality and social protection. We have engaged with policy makers as well as informal worker organisations and other stakeholders in Kenya and Tanzania during the startup workshops and continuously during data collection.

Enrollment of PhD students completed and their PhD plans approved.
Improved understanding of informal worker organization and social protection amongst
participating researchers and amongst stakeholders participating in the first stakeholder
workshops in Kenya and Tanzania.

Data collection is almost completed. A survey of almost 1500 workers have been succesfully
implemented in 4 locations. Key informant interviews and focus group discussions are being
conducted for each sector in each location and is expected to be finished by July 2019,
whereupon analysis and write up will commence.


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