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Policing the informal economy: from policy to practice

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2015 to 2018
Promoter(s) IRCP: 
Antoinette Verhage
Researcher(s) - IRCP: 
Dominique Boels

This research - funded by the Research Foundation Flanders - builds upon my doctoral study into the informal economy in Belgium. That study, which focused on the perceptions of informal workers, clearly revealed the divergent role played by the policy on the informal economy. In particular, the enforcement of applicable regulations was found to have a varying impact on the decisions people make regarding the start and continuity of formal and informal labour. In the current study, I analyse this enforcement component further by examining how the official policy regarding tackling the informal economy is established and translated into practice. Indeed, the inspectors that give shape to this policy in the field (e.g. members of inspectorate services) have discretionary space when making decisions as a result of inspections. Via a multi-method qualitative approach (review of literature, observations and interviews), I shall examine how this discretionary space is interpreted (what decisions are made by the inspectors) and what factors influence decisions made by social inspectors. Theoretical ideas incorporated in responsive regulation (Ayres & Braithwaite, 1992) and street level bureaucracy (Lipsky, 2010) are the foundations of this study. In addition to having both academic (cf. scant research) and social relevance (cf. potential risk related to discretionary space), the study also provides managers with key policy guidance (in terms of HRM, training, assigning cases to inspectors, etc.).

informal economy; discretionary space; street-level bureaucracy