In 2021, the Regional Studies Association awarded Policy Expo funding to the project “Tackling a global pandemic in Asian Megacities: Uneven vulnerabilities, State responses and grassroots practices”.
The research will be led by:
- Dr Iderlina Mateo-Babiano, Melbourne Centre for Cities & Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning, The University of Melbourne, AUSTRALIA
- Dr Redento B. Recio, Informal Urbanism Research Hub, Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning, The University of Melbourne, AUSTRALIA
- Professor Michele Acuto, Melbourne Centre for Cities & Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning, The University of Melbourne, AUSTRALIA
- Dr Kazi Fattah, School of Social Science, The University of Queensland & Melbourne Centre for Cities, The University of Melbourne, AUSTRALIA
- Elisa Sutanudjaja, Rujak Center for Urban Studies, INDONESIA
- Dr Ador R. Torneo, La Salle Institute of Governance / Jesse M. Robredo Institute of Governance, PHILIPPINES
- Ian Jayson Hecita, Jesse M. Robredo Institute of Governance, De La Salle University, PHILIPPINES
- Professor Nausheen H. Anwar, Karachi Urban Lab (KUL), School of Economics & Social Sciences (SESS), Institute of Business Administration, PAKISTAN
- Dr Noman Ahmed, Professor and Dean, Faculty of Architecture and Management Sciences, NED University of Engineering and Technology, Karachi 75270, PAKISTAN
- Anant Maringanti, Hyderabad Urban Lab, INDIA
- Mehnaz Rabbani, BRAC Institute of Governance and Development, BRAC University, BANGLADESH
- Aalok Khandekar, Department of Liberal Arts and Department of Climate Change, Indian Institute of Technology Hyderabad, INDIA
The exclusionary COVID-19 responses continue to worsen the impact of the crisis on the marginal poor. This is apparent in urban planning and governance processes. Urban policies in Dhaka and Manila, for instance, have been framed around ‘formal’ economic transactions and relations. Self-help practices and informal livelihoods are thus easily seen as illegal, treating the informal workers as stubborn law violators even in times of crisis.Urban informal workers are one of the most vulnerable workers globally. This vulnerability has become most stark during the COVID-19 pandemic. For most small businesses, the impact has been softened by government support. In contrast, informal workers continue to struggle as they do not enjoy similar worker rights and protections as their formal counterpart (WIEGO, 2020). For instance, while informal traders contribute to food security of low-income communities, a survey of legal approaches to COVID-19 in 51 countries indicates that just over a third (18 countries) recognised informal food traders as extending an essential service (WIEGO, 2020).
This project aims to determine how state and city-region level crisis management responses and post-pandemic recovery policies and programs in five Southeast and South Asian cities (Dhaka, Hyderabad, Jakarta, Karachi, Metro Manila) can strengthen the urban informal workers’ capacity to bounce back from this global crisis.
This study hopes that by revealing significant gaps in how current policies will address COVID 19 impacts on marginalised subgroups in the case cities/countries, it can identify critical lessons on effective state and non-state strategies, processes and actions that can promote inclusive response to the ongoing pandemic and future shocks, and offer key policy recommendations drawing on locally grounded and regionally informed policy analysis that attend to the specific vulnerabilities and needs of the urban informal workers.