Structures, Political Cultures and Social Practices
Edited By Christian Giordano and Nicolas Hayoz
Social Representations of Informality: the Roma Case
Social Representations of Informality: the Roma1 Case
What is Informality?
Informality is commonly seen as a way of handling all kinds of negotiations, situations and human relations without using or referring to the legal/formal framework or an expected politically or morally correct code of conduct. Hence, generally speaking, informality has negative connotations.
In the social, economic and political sciences, informality is essentially considered as pertaining to the economic sector or even to labour alone. Nowadays informality deals mainly with the question of how people cope in “difficult circumstances”, particularly in the Third World. Since the early 2000s it has attracted the attention not only of social scientists but also of institutions like the World Bank, which commissioned research on informality in Latin America (Perry et al., 2007). Specialized networks are also concerned with the concept of informality.2 Since the early 1990s, NGOs dealing with child labour and street children have pledged to reconsider of the concept of informality in order to give it a more positive or constructive sense. Exposed to closer contact with the everyday life of the “working children” than international experts of intergovernmental institutions, these activists pledged that there were no other ways than informality to guarantee survival in those difficult circumstances. An interesting debate ensued within United Nations organizations, opposing children’s right to education (Unicef, Unesco) with children’s right to work (ILO). A distinction was established between informal work and exploitation. This is an example...
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