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The value of formalisation for women entrepreneurs in developing contexts-A review and research agenda

The value of formalisation for women entrepreneurs in developing contexts-A review and research agenda

Xeneti, Mirela, Madden, Adrian ORCID: 0000-0002-3193-5808 and Thapa-Kharki, Shova (2019) The value of formalisation for women entrepreneurs in developing contexts-A review and research agenda. International Journal of Management Reviews, 21 (1). ISSN 1460-8545 (Print), 1468-2370 (Online) (doi:

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The informal economy (IE) has attracted the attention of policy makers, practitioners and academics alike, reflected both in the growing number of publications spanning different disciplinary foci and in the recent policy emphasis on the formalisation of IE (ILO 2014, Sepulveda and Syrett 2007, Williams and Nadin 2014). The emphasis on formalisation reflects the move beyond traditional explanations of IE as lacking sustainability and stability associated with being a remnant of economic development (Webb et al. 2009) to appreciate its permanence and significance, and its links with, and interdependencies on, the formal economy (Castells and Portes 1989, Meagher 2013, Chen 2007). The IE, broadly accepted as ‘the diversified set of economic activities, enterprises, jobs, and workers that are not regulated or protected by the state’ (Chen 2012: 8), contributes substantially to national GDPs of countries at different developmental stages, accounting as much as 40-60% of the GDPs of developing countries (Godfrey 2011, Schneider 2002). The IE also attracts a disproportionately high number of women, whose participation in these often vulnerable forms of (self)employment is frequently portrayed as motivated by poverty or ‘involuntary exclusion’ from the formal labour market and concerned with sustaining their family’s livelihood (Franck 2012, Bushell 2008, Williams and Gurtoo 2011). These views often ignore the gendered constraints on women’s entrepreneurial activities and their reproduction through social norms, codes of behaviour and practices in specific socio-cultural contexts and the barriers to women’s sustainable economic activity through formalisation.

While IE and women entrepreneurship (WE) have both received separate prior attention, we believe their insights are valuable in widening the theoretical lens on the perceived value of formalisation by placing centre-stage the tensions inherent in, and the institutional dynamics affecting women’s choices in developing contexts. The data available about the drivers and barriers to formalisation in relation to gender is scant with the few existing studies often being narrowly conceptualised, fragmented or lacking in rigour (Chant and Pedwell 2008). This is partly related to contrasting emphases on women’s entrepreneurial activities in IE and WE literature as we succinctly summarise below.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Women entrepreneurs; Informal economy; Formalisation
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Faculty / School / Research Centre / Research Group: Faculty of Business
Faculty of Business > Centre for Work and Employment Research (CREW)
Faculty of Business > Department of Human Resources & Organisational Behaviour
Last Modified: 19 May 2020 14:23

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