Reconceptualising Paid Informal Exchange: Some Lessons from English Cities
Environment and Planning A, vol. 33, no. 1, pp. 121-140, 2001
20 Pages Posted: 30 Jun 2013
Date Written: 2001
Reporting empirical evidence of paid informal work in lower- and higher-income neighbourhoods of several English cities, the aim of this paper is to map out some geographical variations in the extent and character of paid informal work and their implications for public policy. This reveals that more paid informal work takes place in higher-income neighbourhoods where it is chiefly an economically motivated activity that acts as a substitute for formal employment. In lower-income neighbourhoods, however, the smaller amount of paid informal work taking place is largely conducted for family, neighbours and friends for social rather than economic reasons, although the lowest-income households find themselves unable to engage in this source of informal support. Consequently, three challenges for public policy are identified: to eradicate what is largely economically-motivated paid informal work in higher-income neighbourhoods; to adopt a laissez-faire approach towards the socially-oriented paid informal work in lower-income neighbourhoods; and to develop new institutions of accumulation in lower-income neighbourhoods that enable the socially excluded to engage in community exchange as an informal coping mechanism. The paper concludes by evaluating the rationales, socio-spatial consequences and means of public policy pursuing each of these objectives.
Keywords: informal sector, ecnomic geography, informal economy, urban development, economic sociology
JEL Classification: O17
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