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Explaining participation in undeclared work in France: lessons for policy evaluation

Jan Windebank (Centre for Gender Studies in Europe, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK)
Ioana Alexandra Horodnic (Department of Management, Marketing and Business Administration, Facultatea de Economie si Administrarea Afacerilor, Universitatea Alexandru Ioan Cuza, Iasi, Romania)

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy

ISSN: 0144-333X

Article publication date: 11 April 2017




France is a model of best practice in the European Union as regards policy to combat undeclared work. The purpose of this paper is to take the country as a case study to evaluate the competing explanations of why people engage in undeclared work which underpin such policy, namely, the dominant rational-economic-actor approach and the more recent social-actor approach.


To evaluate these approaches, the results of 1,027 interviews undertaken in 2013 with a representative sample of the French population are analysed.


The finding is that higher perceived penalties and risks of detection have no significant impact on the likelihood of conducting undeclared work in France. In contrast, the level of tax morale has a significant impact on engagement in the activity: the higher the tax morale, the lower is the likelihood of participation in the undeclared economy. Higher penalties and risks of detection only decrease the likelihood of participation in undeclared work amongst the small minority of the French population with very low tax morale.

Practical implications

Current policy in France to counter undeclared work is informed principally by the rational-economic-actor approach based on a highly developed infrastructure for detection and significant penalties alongside incentives to declare small-scale own-account work. The present analysis suggests that this approach needs to be supplemented with measures to improve citizens’ commitment to compliance by enhancing tax morale.


This case study of a country with a well-developed policy framework to combat undeclared work provides evidence to support the social-actor approach for informing policy change.



Windebank, J. and Horodnic, I.A. (2017), "Explaining participation in undeclared work in France: lessons for policy evaluation", International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Vol. 37 No. 3/4, pp. 203-217.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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