Informality and its flavours — reflections on how informality can help policy-making and planning (SSE Riga)
Dr. Abel Polese
Since its appearance, the word “informality” has been used for a variety of situation and in a number of different contexts. Initially referring to economic, economistic or, in general, commensurable activities, in the course of time it has gone beyond its monetary significance. Its definition now encompasses activities, and transactions, that may happen beyond or despite the work of an overarching entity managing the relationship between individuals.
In this presentation we will try to cluster the various forms of informality I have encountered during my research – from informal pension schemes in China and Vietnam to informal job-seeking allowances in Southern Europe, lottery scheme in Albania and most of the post-socialist world, to perks (instead of money) to low-paid employees – into at least four different groups, each one with its own features.
This attempted taxonomy is intended to contribute to revisit informality – from a practice that should be liquidated, or at least controlled, to a social and political phenomenon that can be used for a better understanding of a society and eventually inform policymaking. Alternative regards at informality allow us to look at it as, depending on the context: resistance, social solidarity, welfare redistribution and other forms that, starting from an apparently economic phenomenon, can be taken as indicators of the capacity of a state, and its institutions, to manage the public life of its citizens.