Beyond the Sweat Shop: 'Off-the-Books' Work in Contemporary England

Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development, Vol. 13 No. 1, 2006, pp. 89-99

11 Pages Posted: 27 Dec 2015

See all articles by Colin Williams

Colin Williams

University of Sheffield - School of Management

Date Written: 2006

Abstract

Purpose: This paper evaluates critically whether off-the-books work in contemporary England is chiefly conducted by employees working for wholly or partially underground businesses, often on low wages and under exploitative conditions.

Methodology: To evaluate this, empirical evidence is reported from 861 face-to-face interviews in eleven English localities.

Findings: Only a small proportion of off-the-books work is conducted by employees working for wholly or partially underground enterprises. The vast majority is conducted either by the self-employed or by providers of paid favours to friends, acquaintances and kin.

Research limitations: The data reported here is from a household survey based on a maximum variation sample of eleven contrasting localities. Future surveys might use businesses (rather than households) as the unit of analysis and collect a nationally representative sample.

Practical implications: Identifying how off-the-books work is predominantly autonomous and self-employed endeavour, a re-conceptualisation of this sphere is required as a potential asset rather than hindrance to development, and initiatives developed to legitimise this illegitimate self-employment rather than simply deter it.

Keywords: Informal sector, entrepreneurship, household work practices, livelihoods, economic development, England

JEL Classification: H26, J46, J48, K34, K42, O17, P2, P3

Suggested Citation

Williams, Colin, Beyond the Sweat Shop: 'Off-the-Books' Work in Contemporary England (2006). Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development, Vol. 13 No. 1, 2006, pp. 89-99, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2708350

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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