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Informality and COVID-19 in South Asia

September 9-10, 2020



South Asia has the highest share of the informal employment among the world's developing regions. More than 80 percent of total employment in Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan is informal. These workers are excluded from labor laws and social protection schemes that apply to organized labor. Despite rapid overall growth the informal sector remains stubbornly large in South Asia.

The COVID-19 crisis has put a spotlight on the precarious situation of informal workers. Informal firms and workers are particularly vulnerable to shocks as they tend to have less cash on hand and more limited access to credit. Those in the informal sector are more likely to lose their jobs and face extreme poverty and food insecurity as the disease continues to intensify across South Asia. The overwhelming majority of workers in the informal economy have higher exposure to occupational health and safety risks, no appropriate protection, and an increased likelihood that they will suffer from illness, accident or death.

The specific risks associated with COVID-19 exacerbate the main vulnerabilities of poor workers in the informal economy. Policies aimed at dealing with the COVID-19 crisis must be mindful of the sheer size and vulnerability of the informal sector and the households associated with it, and its limited engagement with formal institutions and laws.

  • The World Bank and the South Asia Economic Policy Network invite papers addressing one of the following (or related) questions:

    • How can digital technologies be leveraged to improve the conditions in the informal sector?
    • How need social protection programs, unemployment benefits, wage subsidies, and public work programs be structured to provide relief and contribute to recovery?
    • How can reforms and interventions be leveraged to increase security, productivity and job quality in the informal sector?

    We strongly encourage the submission of high-quality and internationally publishable academic papers. The conference will be virtual consisting of two three-hour sessions over two days. The sessions will feature paper presentations, a keynote lecture, and a high-level policy panel.

    Please submit your paper to Rana Mohamed AlGazzaz at ralgazzaz@worldbank.org and Robert Beyer at rcmbeyer@worldbank.org

    Deadline: August 17, 2020

    Program Committee: Hans Timmer, Maurizio BussoloRobert Beyer

    The Program Committee will evaluate all papers in terms of originality, analytical rigor, and policy relevance. Authors of accepted papers will be notified by email on Monday, August 24, 2020.





  • Deadline to submit papers: August 17
  • Selection : August 24
  • Conference : September 9-10
  • Contact Person: Rana AlGazzaz
  • Email Address: ralgazzaz@worldbank.org