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Shades of grey in the informal economy

Trevor Jones (Small Business and Enterprise Research Group, Leicester Business School, De Montfort University, Leicester, UK)
Monder Ram (Small Business and Enterprise Research Group, Leicester Business School, De Montfort University, Leicester, UK)
Paul Edwards (Industrial Relations Research Unit, Warwick Business School, Coventry, UK)

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy

ISSN: 0144-333X

Article publication date: 1 September 2006

3181

Abstract

Purpose

This paper seeks to examine the influence of the national minimum wage (NMW) in the UK to small business owners operating in the informal economy.

Design/methodology/approach

Using the clothing and restaurant sectors as a context, the responses of ethnic minority employers operating in the informal economy are examined in the light of market and regulatory change (notably, the NMW). Case studies are undertaken with 17 business owners and their workers. Given the sensitivity of the information required (reasons for non‐compliance; avoidance strategies; labour use), industry “insiders” were deployed to gain access.

Findings

The findings highlight considerable diversity in employer responses, despite the focus on two comparative narrow market sectors. This has implications for both neo‐liberal approaches to the informal economy, and the so‐called “marginalisation” thesis.

Research limitations/implications

Provides an insight into a neglected segment of the informal economy. Future studies should look at wider range of sectors and compare the experiences of different ethnic minority groups.

Practical implications

This paper demonstrates why extant policy initiatives designed to formalise informal work face major structural barriers. Further, the informal economy is much more widespread than policy discourse suggests, thus accentuating the challenge for policy‐makers.

Originality/value

Extant literature on informal economy tends to be “race‐blind” and rarely linked to the sphere of employment relations. This paper helps to fill both of these gaps.

Keywords

Citation

Jones, T., Ram, M. and Edwards, P. (2006), "Shades of grey in the informal economy", International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Vol. 26 No. 9/10, pp. 357-373. https://doi.org/10.1108/01443330610690514

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2006, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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