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Tackling undeclared work in Europe: lessons from a 27-nation survey

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The aim of this article is to unravel the heterogeneous nature of undeclared work across the European Union and to evaluate the consequences for tackling such work. Until now, most studies of undeclared work have sought to measure the variations in its magnitude. Far fewer have evaluated the nature of undeclared work and whether it is configured in different ways across nations. Indeed, the only evidence so far available on its nature is that produced by small-scale intensive studies of particular places, populations and sectors. Although these display the existence of heterogeneous varieties of undeclared work, what is not known is whether all of these types are ubiquitous across the EU, as well as whether the overall configuration of undeclared work varies across different regions and nations. To fill this gap, the first cross-national survey of undeclared work is here reported undertaken in the 27 member states of the EU based on 26,659 face-to-face interviews conducted during 2007. The overarching finding is that although the array of types of undeclared work exists across the EU, some are more concentrated in particular countries and regions than others, resulting in marked geographical variations in the configuration of the undeclared sphere. Analysing the policy approaches used by the 27 member states, it is then revealed that most countries, due to their adoption of narrow readings of the character of undeclared work, currently use only a relatively limited range of the potential policy measures at their disposal. The article therefore concludes by calling for wider recognition of the diverse nature of undeclared work in the EU and for a broader range of policy approaches and measures to be experimented with when tackling such work.
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Keywords: European Union; informal economy; public policy; tax compliance; undeclared work

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: School of Management, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK

Publication date: April 1, 2009

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