Volume 2021 558

In low- and middle-income countries, informal workers are particularly vulnerable to the health and economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and often neglected by policy responses. At the same time, the crisis is rapidly changing the ways that states engage with informal workers. We argue that the relationships between informal workers and states – and the politics of creating and accessing these linkages – are a critical and frequently overlooked part of the politics of the pandemic. Both pre-existing structural disconnection from the state—embodied, for example, through limited access to health infrastructure—and state attempts to build new connections, including through cash transfer programmes for informal workers, have a profound impact on the effectiveness and reach of state crisis responses. Without considering the varied and dynamic nature of the linkages between states and informal workers we cannot understand the heterogeneous health and economic impacts of the pandemic, state capacity to respond to the crisis, or institutional change in the context of crisis.


Max Gallien

Max Gallien is a Research Fellow at the ICTD. His research specialises in the politics of informal and illegal economies, the political economy of the Middle East and North Africa and development politics. He completed his PhD at the London School of Economics. Max co-leads the informality and taxation programme with Vanessa, as well as the ICTD’s capacity building programme.

Vanessa van den Boogaard

Vanessa van den Boogaard is a Research Fellow at the ICTD and a Senior Research Associate at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy at the University of Toronto. She completed her PhD thesis on informal revenue generation and statebuilding in Sierra Leone, and has ongoing research on the topic in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Somalia. Vanessa leads the ICTD’s new programme on civil society engagement in tax reform and co-leads the research programme on informal taxation.