Working for free illegal employment practices, ‘off the books’ work and the continuum of legality within the service economy

  • Anthony LloydEmail author


Much of the literature on illegal labour focuses on the exploitation of illegal migrants and, by extension, the trafficking and smuggling networks that transport them to destination countries. Using evidence from two projects that investigated working conditions in the formal service economy, the paper presents evidence of ‘off the books’ work, illegal employment practices such as denial of benefits and the minimum wage, as well as work trials where labour is exploited for free. By considering political economic imperatives, this paper argues that employees in both the formal and informal economy are dispossessed of rights, pay, benefits and security in order for employers to profit by surplus value and the circulation of capital. The real ‘organised crime’ of illegal labour is neoliberal political economy and its decimation of employment protection.


Illegal labour Political economy Social harm Illegal employment practices Exploitation Neoliberalism 



The first project was part of an ESRC 1 + 3 Doctoral Studentship (ref: PTA-030-2006-00033). The second project received no funding.

Compliance with ethical standards

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Criminology and SociologyTeesside UniversityMiddlesbroughUK

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