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The Hetrogeneity of the Underground Economy

Author: COLIN C. WILLIAMS and JAN WINDEBANK
Published in IJED, Vol. 6 No. 2

This paper evaluates critically the representation of the underground economy in the advanced economies as comprised of marginalised populations working ‘off the books’ as employees for wholly or partially underground businesses under exploitative conditions. It reveals that this ‘thin’ reading of underground work is descriptive of just one small segment of the underground economy and uncovers how other forms underground work can be identified ranging from income-oriented ‘off-the-books’ self-employment through to community-oriented paid favors. To conclude, therefore, a call is made for the heterogeneous forms of underground work to be recognized in order that a richer and more textured comprehension of the multiple roles of such work in contemporary economic development can start to be achieved.

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