Top urban news, trends and reports curated for the world’s city leaders. Edited by David Hatch

Informal urban workers increasingly displaced by development

Street vendors in Jaisalmer, India (Muslianshah Masrie /

As Global South cities develop, informal workers are increasingly displaced and disadvantaged. Martha Chen blogs for the World Bank that city planners generally fail to account for the needs of street vendors, waste pickers and other members of this shadow workforce. Forced relocations, bans on rickshaws and harassment by local authorities are among the consequences.

The oversight is significant, she warns, because many developing nations have robust informal economies. Across India, four out of five workers scrape by in this manner, without job security, steady wages or benefits. The working poor deserve recognition and inclusion in city planning, she writes. “What is needed is an approach that values economic diversity: large and micro enterprises, formal and informal activities,” adds Chen, a Harvard University lecturer who is also international coordinator for Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing.

City leaders can remedy the situation with safeguards for this vulnerable population. Some municipalities in India, for example, allocate space for street merchants and empower informal trash collectors and recyclers by awarding them contracts. Durban, South Africa also is taking action. The city provides technical support and other resources to thousands of vendors in a central market, the article says. 

World Bank

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