Keith Hart: Coiner of Term “Informal Sector”

Late 1960s Study in Accra, Ghana

  • focus of study: low-income activities in Accra of unskilled migrants from Northern Ghana who could not find wage employment
  • coined term “informal sector”
  • key question:  does the “reserve army of urban unemployed and underemployed” constitute a passive exploited majority OR do their informal economy activities “possess some autonomous capacity for generating incomes”?
  • answer: both - external constraints/capitalist domination + autonomous capacity

Typology of Informal Activities

  • Legitimate
    • Primary and secondary activities: farmers and market gardeners + building/construction contractors + artisans, shoemakers, tailors + beer-alcohol brewers
    • Tertiary enterprises with relatively large capital inputs: those who deal in housing + transport + utilities + commodity speculation + rentier activities
    • Small-scale distribution: market operatives + petty traders and street hawkers + caterers in food and brink + bar attendants + carriers + commission agents and dealers
    • Other services: musicians + launderers + shoeshiners + barbers + night-soil removers + photographers + vehicle repair and other maintenance workers + brokers and middlemen + those who practice ritual services, magic, and medicine
  • Illegitimate
    • Services: hustlers and spivs + receivers of stolen goods + usurers and pawnbrokers + drug-pushers + prostitutes and pimps + smugglers + those who live off bribery, political corruption, protection rackets