Why Do People Engage in Paid Informal Work? A Comparison of Higher- and Lower-Income Urban Neighbourhoods in Britain
Community, Work & Family, Vol. 5, No. 1, 2002
17 Pages Posted: 26 Dec 2015
Date Written: 2002
The aim of this paper is to show that the extensive and growing sphere of paid informal work is not the same everywhere. Instead, we identify distinct socio-spatial differences in its character and the reasons why people engage in such work. Drawing upon interviews with 511 households in higher- and lower-income urban neighbourhoods of British cities, we reveal that for people living in the higher-income neighbourhoods, most paid informal work is conducted under social relations akin to formal employment. Exchange is between consumers and suppliers previously unknown to each other who are motivated by economic gain. For the populations of the lower-income neighbourhoods, in contrast, paid informal exchange occurs mostly between relatives, friends and neighbours for reasons associated with redistribution and sociality. Consequently, we show the need to move beyond assigning a universal character and logic to paid informal work and for greater recognition of the socio-spatial differences in this form of exchange.
Keywords: Informal sector, Britain, structured interviews, exchange, mutual aid, reciprocity
JEL Classification: H26, J46, J48, K34, K42, O17
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