Levelling Down: Is informal activity a roadblock to pandemic recovery?

London International Development Centre (LIDC)

Past Event

Thursday, Sep 02, 2021
12:00 PM - 1:15 PM (UTC)

Registration Required


London International Development Centre (LIDC)





Government & Politics

Sustainable Development

On 2 September LIDC is delighted to host the authors of the recent World Bank Report, The Long Shadow of Informality, Franziska Ohnsorge and Shu Yu with guest speaker, Innocent Silver, Project Coordinator at Kampala City Authority. The moderator for this event is William Monteith of Queen Mary, University of London.

About the topic:

Informal work is a type of entrepreneurship that generally covers goods and services that are legal but not included in countries’ GDP because they are hidden from the authorities. Reasons for this include people being unfamiliar with government bureaucracy or deliberate avoidance by informal workers to avoid paying taxes and other fees, often because people lack faith in their government. Countries with high levels of informal labour face many developmental challenges, including greater inequality, weaker government and productivity investment and lower chances of attaining the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. According to this recent World Bank podcast, the informal sector accounts for a third of GDP and an astonishing 70% of all employment in countries defined as Emerging Markets and Developing Economies (EMDEs). In ‘advanced’ economies, the informal sector is 20% of GDP and 16% of employment. Sub-Saharan Africa has a particularly high rate of 62% informality, as does South Asia, with around 59%. Rates in the Middle East and North Africa are lower. Most people in the informal sector are there because they simply do not have the skills, ability or the right connections to help them find formal work. Informal workers have little, if any, access to employment rights or protection. There are concerns that the informal economy may hold back recovery in countries already struggling with the deep recessions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. The authors of ‘The Long Shadow of Informality’ argue that the challenges posed by informality can be overcome by governments in EMDEs that are willing to adopt broad policies. Informal labour, they say, had been on a declining trend for decades before the onset of Covid-19. Between 1990 and 2018, on average, informality fell by about 7 percentage points of GDP. How can we ensure that EMDEs are included in plans for a post-pandemic economic recovery? Join us on 2 September to discuss this challenge.


Dr. Franziska Ohnsorge is Manager of the Prospects Group in the World Bank. Prior to joining the World Bank, Ms. Ohnsorge worked at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and in the Office of the Chief Economist of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). She has published on a range of topics in policy and academic publications. She holds a PhD in Economics from University of Toronto. Dr. Shu Yu is a Senior Economist with the Prospects Group in the Equitable Growth, Finance and Institutions (EFI) Practice Group at the World Bank. Her main research interests are development economics and political economy. Prior to joining the World Bank, Shu held a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Rochester and worked at the IMF and the Conference Board. She holds a PhD in economics from the University of Groningen and a BSc in economics from Fudan University. Her recent papers were published in journals such as Public Choice, Journal of Comparative Economics, and International Organization. Innocent Silver is Projects Coordinator with the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA), Uganda. As the agency responsible for administering Uganda’s capital city, KCCA is in charge of the entire public service delivery portfolio, except the water and electricity distribution networks. During his time at the authority, Innocent has developed and implemented hard and soft initiatives touching various areas of urban living. Innocent is certified both as Project Management Professional (PMP) and a Public Administrator, with specialized postgraduate training in Population Studies, Urban Management and Corporate Strategy


Dr. William Monteith is a Lecturer in the School of Geography at Queen Mary, University of London. He obtained his PhD at the School of International Development at UEA in 2016 based on an ethnographic study of socioeconomic life in a central marketplace in Kampala, Uganda. Will is interested in what it means to work in contexts in which people’s labour is not valued by the state or capitalist economy. His research explores subjective experiences of work, hustle and ‘make do’ at the margins of capitalist economies; the relationships, politics and places produced by these experiences, and the possibilities they provide for realising more just and inclusive economic geographies. There will be time for discussion, and this event will be recorded. By signing up for LIDC’s event, you agree that we will collect your data and contact you for the purposes of the event only. Your personal information will be deleted after the event. You can email [email protected] to cancel your registration and have your data deleted at any time.


London International Development Centre (LIDC)