Panel 9

Panel 9 - Open 


Ulrik Jennische ( Stockholm University 

Ilona Steiler ( University of Helsinki 

Title & Content:

Beyond old and new divisions: Informal and precarious work in the North and South

The informal economy and its challenges have generated an enormous amount of debate among scholars and the labour movement during the past decades. However, with very few notable exceptions, this debate presupposes and represents stark divisions: Geographically, the informal economy is largely treated as a phenomenon found in the Global South and post-socialist East, as opposed to precarious work found in the ‘developed’ North and West. Conceptually, informal income-generation appears to be a concern of economic and social development, addressed by economists, anthropologists and human rights scholars, whereas its labour dimension and its implications for labour law and labour rights are at the margins of scholarly engagement in those fields. Theoretically, different schools of thought are strongly divided over whether the informal economy presents fertile soil for development or an impediment to it. Practically, policy responses of governments are all too often informed by modernist thinking and ill-suited to accommodate the social complexities surrounding informal work, while established institutions of labour regulation and activism are struggling to re-invent themselves in light of new global market structures and spreading precarity.
The panel/working group seeks to challenge the presumed divisions between the formal and informal worlds of work and instead highlight their connections, commonalities and continuities across time and space. This allows unpacking the notion of the informal economy and offering constructive critiques of the dichotomies within which the concept tends to be used. Possible themes for contributions include, but are not limited to:
The (re)emergence of old and new forms of workplace and income vulnerabilities across

  • North and South, and their connections
  • Conflicts and solidarity among workers in informal and precarious conditions
  • Conceptual and theoretical approaches to re-thinking the informal economy in global context
  • The impact of new technologies on informal working conditions
  • Transferable knowledge on informal/precarious work between different geographical