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New research to explore the impact of Covid-19 on the informal economy

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Warwick Law School academics, Dr Carolina Alonso Bejarano and Dr Celine Tan are collaborating on a new international research project focused on exploring the impact of COVID-19 on informal workers in Colombia.

Informality in COVID-19 Times brings together a group of socio-legal scholars, labour economists, public health experts, anthropologists, cinematographers, infographers, web-designers and public policy makers in order to study the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on informal workers and their economies, using Colombia as its main case study.

Dr Alonso Bejarano and Dr tan will be working with a multi-disciplinary team of researchers from Rosario University, Professor Johanna Cortés-Nieto and Dr Enrique Prieto-Rios from Rosario’s Faculty of Jurisprudence; Dr Iván Jaramillo, director of the Observatory of Work (LaboUR); and Professor Leonardo Briceño, director of the Public Health Research Group at Rosario’s School of Medicine and Health Sciences. They will also be working with Dr Luis Eslava and Professor Donatella Alessandrini From Kent Law School and Dr Anil Yilmaz and Dr Tara Van Ho from the Essex Law School and Centre for Human Rights.

Mixing media and blurring the boundaries between quantitative and qualitative methodologies, and between practice and the academy, outcomes of this project include multilingual policy briefings, life histories, documentaries, online outreach platforms and the first comprehensive data-base of aggregated data on informality in Colombia. Highlighting both the enormous yet often forgotten contribution of informal workers to the general economy of nations and the ultra-precarities they face in moments of public health crises, the outcomes of this project make an urgent call for a new set of new social, economic and health policies in Colombia and similar countries.

The project will produce the first comprehensive database on the volume and characteristics of informal work in Colombia, using existing yet disaggregated sources of information. This quantitative approach will be complemented by the construction of six life histories based on in-depth interviews and a documentary produced in collaboration with informal workers associations.

Project outputs and policy briefings will voice the concerns of workers in the informal economy and inform workers’ organisations and national and local governments’ responses to COVID-19.

The project will form part of Ruptures21, a broader initiative of The IEL Collective, that seek to respond to the challenges posed by old and current economic, social and legal dynamics and their impact on the human and non-human world. Through international interdisciplinary and institutional collaborations, it advances novel ways to understand and address global issues.

Informality in COVID-19 Times is supported by the University of Kent, the University of Essex, the University of Warwick and Rosario University and has been conducted in alliance with the Observatory for Women’s Equity (ICESI, Colombia), LaboUR, the Research Group on Public Health and Epidemiology (Rosario University) and AlianzaEFI.

The collaboration forms part of ongoing work by the IEL Collective to encourage public debate and policy innovation in relation to the role of the current international economic order. Supported by 12 institutions (including Warwick Law School, Essex Law School, Kent Law School and Rosario University), the IEL Collective has been responding to the COVID-19 pandemic with a series of open access interventions, articles and interviews.

Dr Alonso Bejarano is Senior Teaching Fellow at Warwick Law School and Dr Tan is Reader at Warwick Law School and Fellow of the Institute for Global Sustainable Development (IGSD), University of Warwick.