This briefing, which is published under the Global Economy and Finance Programme’s ‘Rebuilding International Economic Cooperation’ project, highlights how the COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbating economic and social insecurity for more than 2 billion people employed in the informal sector, and adding to global inequality. A radical rethink of the nature of work and social insurance is needed.
Today’s social insurance programmes largely exclude informal and ‘gig economy’ workers. Reforms will need, among other things, to fill this gap by expanding the coverage of voluntary, individualized social insurance to these sectors. Given that fiscal pressures associated with the pandemic will make it difficult for governments to subsidize new schemes sufficiently, there is a role for the G20 and international financial institutions to provide assistance, for example through conditional loans, grants and debt relief.