Skip to main content

Centre of African Studies: Research


Paper Details

Author: Kenneth King

Title: An Evaluation of Research and Policies on Informal Sector Employment in Developing Countries

Year: 1987

This paper seeks to untangle some of the complexity of assessing the impact of informal sector research and policies upon employment policies. This task involves acknowledging that there is with the concept of the informal sector an interplay first between external academic research and the formation of donor poliices (ILO), and second between both the external research and donor policy on the one hand and the formation of national poliices (and local research) on the other. This double interaction between external and internal research and policy agendas is illustrated and evaluated by the crucially important case of Kenya, the country in whose 1971 - 1972 Employment Mission the concept of the informal sector was first applied. Given tht the informal sector policies in that Mission had policy implications for many if not most of the sectors covered in the Report - from housing, to technology, to trade, to education, - it was felt useful at least to attempt to sort out in some detail the local policy impact within one sector, and in doing so illustrate the timescale necessary to such a task. A brief 'prehistory' of the concept in Kenya and in Sussex is offered, and then over the period 1971 to 1987, some of the main data are reviewed that would be considred relevant to evaluating the incorporation of the informal sector concept into edcuation-and-employment policy, as well as into more general development policy prescriptions in Kenya. A short section looks at some of the issues involved in what appears like a very major revisiting of the informal sector concept by the development assistance community in the late 1980s. Finally, a set of more general propositions are developed that are intended to offer both a retrospective commentary on some of the gaps and biases that have marked research and policy on the informal sector over the past decade and a half, and also some prospective suggestions about research.