Understanding the Immediate Impacts on Waste Pickers
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COVID-19-related restrictions, including full or partial lockdowns, have impacted an estimated five billion people globally (International Labour Organization 2020). These restrictions have been necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19, but have also dramatically increased the vulnerability of 1.6 billion informal workers, such as waste pickers. Waste pickers—also referred to as informal recyclers, recolectores or recicladores (in Colombia), catadoras (in Brazil), reclaimers (in South Africa) and other local terms—are especially vulnerable because of the nature of their work: they retrieve, sort and sell discarded materials from the waste stream for meager remuneration with little to no support from public authorities. To examine the impact of the pandemic on waste pickers’ earnings, occupational health and support from public entities, we draw on data from the WIEGO-led COVID-19 Crisis and the Informal Economy Study. The study surveyed 499 waste pickers across nine cities in Africa, Asia and the Americas.