Organizing the Informal Economy in Senegal

  • Thomas Greven


The power resources theory of labour is currently a popular instrument for the analysis of workers’ organizing efforts in developed economies with formalized labour markets. As it asks questions about the structural, organizational, institutional and societal (discursive) power resources of labour, it can be applied to the analysis of organizing efforts in economies with high levels of informal employment as well. Using the example of the informal economy in Senegal and specifically the organizing experience of the Confédération Générale des Travailleurs de l’Économie Informelle au Sénégal (CGTIS, Senegalese Confederation of Informal Economy Workers), this chapter explores the possibilities and limits of the power resources theory of labour to analyse informal economies and workers. In addition to traditional dependent workers, the Senegalese informal economy is characterized by small businesses and self-employed workers often acting as employers. These diverse actors are able to articulate mutual interests in an effort to establish institutional protections for labour, particularly for social protection. At the same time, they have organized themselves into joint organizations despite the fact that the diversity of their economic interests as business owners, employers and dependent employees cannot be captured by the power resources theory of labour. I find that Gramsci’s theory of hegemony, which highlights the role of identity in the formation of interests, makes it possible to understand that self-organization in the Senegalese informal economy at this time follows identity much more than class, because the diverse actors, regardless of their actual role, all perceive themselves as underprivileged and under-represented ‘workers’.


Informal economy Organizing labour Institutions Social protection 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas Greven
    • 1
  1. 1.John F. Kennedy InstituteFree University of BerlinBerlinGermany

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