Caroline Skinner is a Senior Researcher at the African Centre for Cities and Urban Policies Programme Director for the global network Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO). For over two decades, Caroline’s work has interrogated the nature of the informal economy and processes of informality.  She seeks to generate new knowledge, inform livelihood-centred policy and planning responses, and better equip current and future urban practitioners to engage with ‘informality’.  A key focus is providing technical support to both international and local worker movements.     

She has been involved in all three of WIEGO’s multi-city, panel studies monitoring the impact of crises on informal workers in cities across the Global South – first during the 2008/9 Global Financial Crisis that developed into the 10 city Informal Economy Monitoring Study and more recently the 12 city Covid-19 Crisis Study.  An abiding interest has been analysing South African Labour Force Survey data – monitoring trends over time in employment in the informal economy.  Relatedly, she co-convened the informal sector group within the Employment, Income Distribution and Inclusive Growth project based in the Economics Department at UCT.  This resulted in the edited volume The South African Informal Sector: Creating Jobs, Reducing Poverty.  These elements of her work aim, in part, to speak back to debates in economics. 

Caroline has long monitored trends in urban policy and planning with respect to the informal economy in general, and street trading in particular. A theme within this, supporting ACC’s food security cluster, has been to unpack the role of the informal economy in the food system in South Africa and elsewhere.  She was an advisor to the ACC’s Hungry Cities and Consuming Urban Poverty projects.  Another focus has been urban design and architectural innovations – including documenting the Warwick Junction Project in inner-city Durban and, in more recent years, supporting the work of Asiye eTafuleni.  Caroline was also an advisor on ACC’s project Migrant Entrepreneurs and Inclusive Growth, which resulted in the edited volume Mean Streets: Migration, Xenophobia and Informality in South Africa, among other outputs and impacts.

Caroline has a long track record of policy and advocacy work at a global, national, provincial and local levels.  She has written policy papers for United Cities and Local Government, the United Nations Human Settlements and Development Programmes, and worked with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees on foreign migrants’ economic contributions.  She has advised a few national government departments, including the South African Presidency, and developed informal economy strategies for the provinces of the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. At a municipal level, she has worked with the South African Local Government Association but also advised local authorities on informal economy issues in Durban, Cape Town, Johannesburg, and elsewhere.

She is founder and editor of WIEGO’s publication series.  It contains over 200 publications, arguably the most comprehensive collection of work on the informal economy to date. 


Selected Academic Publications

Selected Policy Papers