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

See all articles by Colin Williams

Colin Williams

University of Sheffield - School of Management

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Date Written: 2008

Abstract

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

Williams, Colin, A Critical Evaluation of Competing Representations of the Relationship between Formal and Informal Work (2008). Community, Work & Family, Vol. 11. No.1, pp. 105-124, 2008, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2286704

Colin Williams (Contact Author)

University of Sheffield - School of Management ( email )

15 Conduit Road
Sheffield, S10 1FL
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/management/staff/williams/index

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