A Critical Evaluation of Competing Representations of the Relationship between Formal and Informal Work
Community, Work & Family, Vol. 11. No.1, pp. 105-124, 2008
21 Pages Posted: 30 Jun 2013
Date Written: 2008
Analysing the extensive literature on informal work reveals multiple, often contradictory, views regarding its relationship with the formal sector. The aim of this paper is to evaluate critically these competing claims. Evaluating in turn the predominant views of the informal sector as a residue, by-product, complement and/or alternative to the formal sector, reveals that universal generalisations are not possible and that all of these articulations only apply in specific contexts. However, rather than simply conclude that these contrasting readings of the relationship between the informal and formal sectors are therefore context-bound generalisations, two features common to all these perspectives are identified that necessitate a more fundamental rethinking of the relationship between the formal and informal spheres. These relate to the way in which all firstly, simplistically attribute one sphere with positive features (e.g., modernisation, virtue and progress) and the other with negative attributes (e.g., tradition, backwardness, exploitation) and, secondly, delineate these spheres as discrete and separate entities. The paper concludes by setting out a research agenda to transcend such hierarchical binary thought and to move towards a fuller and finer-grained understanding of the relations between informal and formal work.
Keywords: informal sector, informal economy, binary hierarchies, dualisms
JEL Classification: O17
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation