A Critical Evaluation of Competing Representations of the Relationship Between Formal and Informal Work
Community, Work & Family, Vol. 11. No.1, pp. 105-124, February 2008
Posted: 8 Jul 2013
Date Written: 2008
Analyzing the extensive literature on informal work reveals multiple, often contradictory, views regarding its relationship with formal work. The aim of this paper is to evaluate critically these competing claims. Evaluating in turn the predominant views of informal work as a residue, by-product, complement and/or alternative to formal work, reveals that universal generalizations 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 informal and formal work are therefore context-bound generalizations, two features common to all these perspectives are identified that necessitate a more fundamental rethinking of the relationship between formal and informal work. These relate to the way in which all firstly, simplistically attribute one form of work with positive features (e.g., modernization, virtue and progress) and the other with negative attributes (e.g., tradition, backwardness, exploitation) and, secondly, delineate formal and informal work as discrete and separate entities. The paper concludes by setting out a research agenda to not only highlight the political values underpinning each of these representations but also achieve a fuller and finer-grained understanding of the relations between informal and formal work.
Keywords: informal economy, informal sector, dualism, binary hierarchies, binary thought, future of work
JEL Classification: O17, H26, H31
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation