The expansion of the informal economy, which now employs more than 60% of the world’s workers, represents a central paradox of contemporary economic development. COVID-19 has further exposed the pervasive role of informal employment across the globe.  Practitioners, policy makers and academics seek a clearer understanding of its impact on poverty, employment, governance and inclusive development. In a globalising environment, are large informal economies a poverty trap or an engine of growth? Do they stimulate entrepreneurship and popular empowerment, or promote criminality and exploitation? How does a greater understanding of the size and organization of informal economies affect policy on urban service provision, social protection or taxation? What are the implications of the informal economy for social cohesion and popular politics in developing countries?