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Retheorizing The Nature Of Informal Employment

Colin C. Williams, John Round

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This article evaluates critically the contrasting theories of informal employment that variously read this sector as a leftover of pre-capitalism, a byproduct of a new emergent form of capitalism, a complement to formal employment or an alternative to the formal economy. Until now, a common tendency has been to either universally privilege one theorization over the others, or to depict each as appropriate in different regions of the world. Reporting on data collected through face-to-face interviews with 600 households in Ukraine, however, the finding is that each theory is valid when analysing particular types of informal employment in this country, and that only by combining them will a finer-grained and more comprehensive understanding of the complex and diverse nature of informal employment be achieved. The article concludes by outlining a way of synthesizing these theorizations in order to develop a more multilayered and nuanced understanding of informal employment.