What is the relationship between trust in the state and vaccine hesitancy among a marginalized sub-population? This article explores attitudes towards COVID-19 vaccination programmes of informal workers in the context of Lahore, Pakistan, and draws on in-depth conversations with informal workers across four sectors in 2021. It finds a surprising disconnect between vaccine scepticism and actual decisions to have the vaccination. Those that were vaccinated did not necessarily believe in its effectiveness, while trust in the state did not critically shape health-seeking behaviour. The article observes striking sectoral variation in perceptions of the pandemic and willingness to get vaccinated, with greater scepticism and hesitancy among male-dominated street vendors and transport workers relative to females working as home-based sub-contractors and domestic workers. It argues that this is driven by workers’ heterogeneous access to and interaction with work and public space, which shaped how they experienced lockdowns, interacted with the state and other actors during the pandemic and perceived the risks of the pandemic. The article’s findings highlight heterogeneous dynamics within the informal economy, which it refers to as the gendered geographies of work and movement, and how these can play a critical role in shaping responses to public health measures beyond the context of the informal economy.


Shandana Khan Mohmand

Shandana Mohmand, Governance Cluster Leader and Research Fellow, Institute of Development Studies

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.

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.

Umair Javed

Dr. Umair Javed is an Assistant Professor at the Mushtaq Gurmani School of Humanities and Social Sciences at the Lahore University of Management Sciences. He completed his PhD at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) in 2018, where he was a recipient of the LSE Centennial PhD Studentship. His doctoral research focused on politics and practices of accumulation, and labour relations in Pakistan's informal economy, with a specific focus on the retail-wholesale (bazaar) sector. More broadly, his research interests span various aspects of political participation, socio-economic development, and urban public life in South Asia.