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

See all articles by Colin Williams

Colin Williams

University of Sheffield - School of Management

Multiple version iconThere are 3 versions of this paper

Date Written: 2008

Abstract

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

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, February 2008, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2290773

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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