This paper sets out to evaluate 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.
Empirical evidence is reported from 861 face‐to‐face interviews in 11 English localities.
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.
The data reported here are from a household survey based on a maximum variation sample of 11 contrasting localities. Future surveys might use businesses (rather than households) as the unit of analysis and collect a nationally representative sample.
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.
This paper transcends the popular portrayal of off‐the‐books work as conducted by employees under sweatshop conditions and for the first time identifies the proportion undertaken on a self‐employed basis as well as evidence that this sphere is used as a test‐bed by fledgling business ventures which conduct either a proportion or all of their trade in this sphere.
Williams, C. (2006), "Beyond the sweat shop: “off‐the‐books” work in contemporary England", Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development, Vol. 13 No. 1, pp. 89-99. https://doi.org/10.1108/14626000610645333Download as .RIS
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