Cluster for Research on the Informal Sector and Policy (CRISP)
According to an OECD report, of the global working population of some three billion, nearly two-thirds (1.8 billion) work in the informal sector (Jütting and Laiglesia, 2009). Across the world, what needs to be done about this informal sector is becoming a priority issue for many governments.
Until now, most of the focus of scholarly attention has been on measuring its size and growth. Although this is important for raising awareness of the importance of this realm, such research provides few clues about what needs to be done about this issue.
The mission of the Cluster for Research on the Informal Sector and Policy (CRISP) is to seek understanding of the characteristics of the informal sector and the motives for people working in the informal sector so that policies can be formulated for tackling this issue.
Our starting point is that different policy approaches and measures will be required in different populations to deal with different aspects of the informal sector. By adopting a more nuanced approach towards understanding the nature of the informal sector and the various forms of informal work, the intention is to develop a range of policy approaches and measures suited to the plurality of informal economic practices and the diverse social, economic, cultural and political contexts in which this endeavour occurs in a global context.
January 2013: 'Enabling enterprise: towards joined-up governance' - "The Government needs to embrace Britain's hidden enterprise culture, not repress it" writes Professor Colin C Williams for the speri.comment blog. Read the full post at http://speri.dept.shef.ac.uk/2013/01/16/enabling-enterprise-joined-up-governance/
July 2012: 'Cash-in-hand work: morally right or wrong?' - Professor Colin C Williams contributes to The Independent's Debate. See http://blogs.independent.co.uk/2012/07/25/the-debate-are-cash-in-hand-payments-morally-wrong/
Current and recent projects
Making the transition from informal to formal enterprise: barriers and policy solutions. Over the period 2010-12, the Institute of Small Business and Entrepreneurship (ISBE) Research and Knowledge Exchange Fund (RAKE) has provided funding for the University of Sheffield to work in cooperation with Community Links, a third sector agency based in East London to conduct a qualitative survey of entrepreneurship in the informal sector in deprived neighbourhoods and to host a number of seminars with both European policy-makers and the UK policy community, including HMRC, to disseminate the findings.
Designing a survey of undeclared work in the European Union. The European Commission DG Employment funded a project to evaluate the feasibility of conducting a direct survey of undeclared work in the European Union. The survey was subsequently implemented in the form of 27,000 face-to-face interviews in 27 countries. Partners included TNS (Germany), Regioplan (Netherlands) and Rockwool (Denmark).
Evaluating the effectiveness of Her Majesty´s Revenue and Customs. Prof Williams has been sitting on a National Audit Office advisory committee conducting a value for money study of Her Majesty´s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) efficiency and effectiveness in tackling the hidden economy.
Knowledge bank of best practice for tackling undeclared work. The European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions has funded the collection of evidence from 27 European Union member states on best practice when seeking to combat undeclared work. http://www.eurofound.europa.eu/areas/labourmarket/tackling/search.php
Evaluating the feasibility of creating a European platform for coordinating the fight against undeclared work. In 2010-2011, the European Commission provided €460,000 to evaluate the feasibility of establishing a European platform/agency to coordinate the fight against undeclared work in the European Union. This involved desk-research of similar European platforms, surveys of key stakeholders in government and other social partners, and workshops throughout Europe bringing together senior government officials and other social partners to explore the feasibility of different policy options.
Informal Work Practices amongst Migrant Workers. Dr. Peter Rodgers has led an ESRC project, examining hidden work practices amongst Ukrainian and Russian migrant communities in the UK. This project sought to examine the complex and crosscutting reasons behind hidden work practices and elucidate what are the barriers for individuals to enter formal labour markets.
Evaluating the informal sector in Casablanca. In 2011, the Bergische Universität Wuppertal sub-contracted a research project to evaluate the extent and nature of the informal economy in Casablanca to CREED. Dr Peter Rodgers, Prof Colin Williams and Dr Sara Nadin have worked in collaboration with TNS Morocco to produce an extensive survey of the informal sector coupled with in-depth interviews. The aim is to explore the feasibility of the informal sector as an integrative factor of climate-optimized urban development in Morocco.
Home-Based Business. In developing their work on the Sheffield City Region, Dr Peter Rodgers and Dr Tim Vorley have been researching the prevalence of home-based businesses. The study identifies a variety of reasons why and when people elect to start business at home. The research findings distinguish between factors relating to an individual’s work life and personal life, and contribute to debates of necessity- and opportunity-based entrepreneurship and highlight how businesses undergo a journey towards formalization.
The effectiveness of international cooperation to combat transnational organised crime. Edward van Asch's doctoral research is on 'The effectiveness of international cooperation to combat transnational organised crime', focusing specifically on the efforts being made by different countries in Southeast Asia to counter the illegal wildlife trade in animals and animal parts. He is looking at cross-border, bilateral and multilateral cooperation, particularly the Border Liaison Office Mechanism developed by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime with national governments, and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Wildlife Enforcement Network (ASEAN-WEN). Based in Bangkok during his fieldwork, he is looking at the role of governments, NGOs and border officials in tackling cross-national smuggling and transport of wildlife.
Informal economies, place and national social and economic policies. Joanna Shapland is working with researchers from the Universities of Ghent, Liege, Sicily and Leeds to look at the extent to which elements of the informal economy (both hidden work and criminal forms) are related to the opportunities available to segments of the population, to local geographic constraints and to national social and economic policies. Stemming from a EU funded project, CRIMPREV, and with some more recent funding from GERN and from Messina, a conference was held in Messina in 2011 (an edited book from this will appear in 2012) and another workshop will be held in Ghent in September 2012.
Edward van Asch
Dr Pauline Dibben
Prof Jason Heyes
Dr Sara Nadin
Prof Nicola Philips
Dr Gurleen Popli
Dr Peter Rodgers
Prof Joanna Shapland
Dr Tim Vorley
Dr Rob Wapshott
Prof Colin C Williams
Dr Nick Williams
For details of the Advisory Board members, click here.