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Informal Economy in the Fragile City as a Driver of Social Resilience. Lessons for the disaster risk reduction. Focus on informal workers in the public space of Bogota, Colombia.
1  University of Stuttgart


The informal economy accounts for more than 50% of the non-rural working population in Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa and South and East Asia. Being the informal workers of the public space, the most affected not only by being constantly exposed to the environment but also to the social conditions of a hostile society that perceives this practice as negative and illegal, it is often disregarded their great capacity to anticipate, absorb and adapt and therefore, their high level of social resilience. Understanding the adaptation and survival mechanisms of the informal workers could help drawing lessons for the field of disaster risk management more specifically on how this is related with the production of social resilience. Social resilience has attracted great attention from researchers of various disciplines, focusing mostly on the creation of methodologies for assessment and implementation at the city and regional level. There is, however, a growing need to find appropriate strategies to produce social resilience in communities, especially the most vulnerable ones. By analysing selected literature, we identified twelve attributes clustered in six sub-dimensions of Social Resilience, mutually transferable between the field of Informal Economy and Disaster Risk Management. Then, we evaluated their presence in daily activities of informal workers of the public space in the city of Bogota, Colombia. We recognized 10 out of the 12 attributes (excluding Social Demography and Fair Access to Basic Needs and Services) in the observations and semi-structured interviews performed. According to our analysis and informal workers answers, a set of recommendations is proposed to enhance social resilience to disasters at the community level. We further identified conditions of corruption, conflict, displacement and inequality, placing this research within the spectrum of Fragile Cities. Our results are a call for science and practice to reframe resilience not as a repeatable equation but as a context-based dynamic.

Keywords: community resilience; social resilience; informal economy; fragile cities; disaster risk reduction;