Caroline Skinner is a Senior Researcher at the African Centre for Cities at the University of Cape Town and Urban Policies Research Director for the global action-research-policy network Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO). For over 15 years, Skinner’s work has interrogated the nature of the informal economy with a focus on informing advocacy processes and livelihood-centred policy and planning responses. She has published widely on the topic.

Her own research has used both qualitative and quantitative techniques. She has, among other issues, interrogated global trends in urban policy with respect to informality in general and street trading in particularly and critically analyzed urban design and architectural responses. She has assessed collective action by informal workers both in and outside of the trade union movement. She has analysed national labour market data; conducted survey analysis of constraints to growth in the informal economy and interrogated human resource constraints within this segment of the labour market. She co-convenes the Informal Sector Employment Project for the Employment, Income Distribution and Inclusive Growth project based in the Economics Department at University of Cape Town. She has had a longstanding interest in migration and informality and was an advisor in the ACC project Growing Informal Cities: Migrant Entrepreneurs and Inclusive Growth in South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe and ongoing work on migration on informality. Increasingly she is focusing on the role of the informal economy in food security. She is an advisor on both the Hungry Cities and Consuming Urban Poverty Projects. A cross cutting theme has been policy analysis and critique. She has presented her work at numerous academic and policy events both in South Africa and internationally.

Skinner has a long track record of policy and advocacy work at a local, provincial, national and international level. At a city level, in the early 2000’s she worked on a consultative process that resulted in the eThekwini Municipality’s informal economy policy, co-drafting core parts of the text.   It remains Durban’s official policy. More recently she has been advising the Cape Town and Johannesburg City Councils on their approach to the informal economy. She has worked with the provinces of KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape developing informal sector strategies and advised a number of national government departments, including the Presidency and Department of Trade and Industry. Internationally, she has written policy papers for United Nations Human Settlements Programme, the United Nations Development Programme and, most recently, the World Bank. She also provides technical support for MBO advocacy campaigns both internationally and in South Africa. For many years she has also provided research material for the Legal Resources Centre in their litigation to secure informal workers’ rights, most recently on a case challenging the constitutionality of confiscating street traders’ goods.

Twitter handle @SkinnerCaroline


Select Publication List

Chen, M. Roever, S. and Skinner C. 2016.  The Editorial: Urban Livelihoods: Reframing Theory and PolicyEnvironment and Urbanisation, Vol 28, Issue 2.

Skinner, C. and Haysom, G. 2016. The Informal Economy’s Role in Feeding Cities – A Missing Link in Policy Debates? Working Paper 6, PLAAS/CoEFS working paper series. Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies, University of the Western Cape, Belville.

Roever, S. and Skinner, C. 2016. Street Vendors and Cities, Environment and Urbanisation special issue on Urban Livelihoods.  Environment and Urbanisation, Vol 28, Issue 2.

Crush, J., Chikanda, A.  and Skinner, C. 2015. Mean Streets: Migration, Xenophobia and Informality in South Africa. Published by the Southern African Migration Programme (SAMP), African Centre for Cities (ACC) & International Development Research Centre (IDRC).

Crush, J., Skinner, C. and Chikanda, A. 2015. Informal Migrant Entrepreneurship and Inclusive Growth in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. Migrant Policy Series, No. 68. Southern African Migration Programme and International Migration Research Centre.

Chen, M. and Skinner, C.  2014. ‘The Urban Informal Economy: Enhanced Knowledge, Appropriate Policies and Effective Organization.’  Ed. Parnell, S and Oldfield, S.  The Routledge Handbook of Cities of the Global South.  London: Routledge.

Dube, G. Mkhize, S and Skinner, C.  2013. Informal Economy Monitoring Study, Street Vendors in Durban South Africa.  Inclusive Cities Research Report.  Manchester: WIEGO .

Chen, M. Bonner, C., Chetty, M., Fernandez, L., Pape K. Parra, F., Singh, A. and Skinner, C.  2012. ‘Urban Informal Workers: Representative Voice & Economic Rights’ Background Paper for the World Development Report, 2013. Washington DC: World Bank.

Skinner, C.  2010. ‘Street Trading in Africa: Trends in Demographics, Planning and Trader Organisation’ ed. Padayachee, V. The Political Economy of Africa, Routledge, London.

Skinner, C. 2010. ‘Challenging City Imaginaries: Street Traders Struggles in Warwick Junction’ Agenda special issue.

Dobson, R. and Skinner, C.  2009. Working in Warwick:  Integrating Street Traders into Urban Plans Durban:  University of KwaZulu-Natal.

Skinner, C. 2008.  ‘The Struggle for the Streets: Processes of Exclusion and Inclusion of Street Traders in Durban, South Africa’, Development Southern Africa, Vol. 25 No. 2.

Devey, R. Skinner, C and Valodia I.  2008. ‘The Informal Economy’, Human Resource Development Biennial Directory.  (Eds) A. Kraak and Press, K.  Human Sciences Research Council, Cape Town.

Skinner, C.  2006. ‘Falling though the policy gaps?  Evidence from the informal economy in Durban, South Africa’, Urban Forum, Vol. 17, No. 2.

Skinner, C. and Devenish, A. 2006. ‘Collective Action for those in the Informal Economy: The Case of the Self Employed Women’s Union’, in Ballard, R., Habib, A. and Valodia, I. (eds), Voices of Protest: Social Movements in Post-Aparthied South Africa, University of KwaZulu-Natal Press: Durban.

Devey, R, Skinner, C. and Valodia I.  2006. ‘Definitions, Data and the Informal Economy in South Africa: A Critical Analysis’ in Padayachee, V. (ed). The Development Decade? Economic and Social Change in South Africa, 1994-2004, Human Science Research Council Press: Cape Town.

Devey, R, Skinner, C. and Valodia I.  2006.  ‘The State of the Informal Economy’ in Buhlungu, S., Daniel, J., Southall, R. and Lutchman, J. (eds). The State of the Nation, 2005-2006, Human Science Research Council Press: Cape Town.

Valodia, I, Lebani, L., Skinner, C and Devey, R.  2006. ‘Low-waged and Informal Employment in South Africa’ Transformation 60.

Lund F. and Skinner C. 2004.  ‘Integrating the Informal Economy in Urban Planning and Governance:  A Case Study of the Process of Policy Development in Durban, South Africa.’  International Development Planning Review.  Vol.26, No. 4.

Hunter N. and Skinner C. 2003. Foreigners Working on the Streets of Durban: Local Government Policy Challenges, Urban Forum, Vol.14, No.4.

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