How to Engage Informal Workers in Work Restructuring Programs

Authored by Anna Kallschmidt

If you remember from our first post, Project GLOW has partnered with the United Nations to use organizational science to address the Sustainable Development Goals…but what has the GLOW community contributed since then? GLOW researcher Dr. Charles Tchagneno’s recent dissertation research contributes to these goals by  investigating how people in developing countries decide to engage in programs that will help them leave low-wage jobs. 

For some developing countries, “formal workers” are considered to be the people who are working in capital intensive sectors. Typically, these positions are characterized with stable employment, bigger firms, and the industrial sector in places such as Latin America. However, “informal workers” tend to worker for smaller establishments, and are typically associated with underemployed jobs, lower wages and work in the “underground economy. 

“The informal work, i.e work work escaping from the total or partial control of State,  is becoming more and more rampant in underdeveloped countries, and particularly in subsaharian African countries. In Cameroon, 90.5% of workforce are occupied by informal work and this rate has increased in spite of the effort of the government, supported by the ILO (International Labour Organization) to formalise it since a decade. This becomes a real preoccupation when we know that informal work is characterised by underemployment, precarity, inequalities and poverty of workers. In fact, informal work sector is known to be a place where the work is indecent (ILO, 1972; 2013) and wages unfair (Gloss, Carr, Abdul-Nasiru, & Oestereich, 2017). It seems then important to know more about the determinant of the engagement in programs and public policies that aim to formalize it (informal work restructuring programs) in order to propose better public policies.”- Dr. Charles Tchagneno

Dr. Tchagneno points out that research on informal workers has ignored the psycho-social dimensions of public policy implementation and how this effects change. Consequently, Tchagneno investigates theories of behavior change to discern what socio-cognitive factors influence people’s engagement in these programs.

“The World is today engaged in a new « grand plan » to reduce poverty (Easter, 2006, cited by Carr, McWha, MacLachlan & Furnham, 2010). That is the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDD). The restructuring of informal [work would contribute] to the achievement of at least three main SDD : – The eradication of extreme poverty (SDD1), – The promotion of decent work (SDD8), – and the fighting against inequalities (SDD10). Our thesis is one of the contribution of Humanitarian work psychology for the solving of those matters.”- Dr. Charles Tchagneno

 Tchagneno conducted seven studies on both informal workers and employers of informal workers. The first study was exploratory, and consisted of 25 interviews with informal workers. In the second and third studies, the authors found that attitudes toward the informal work restructuring programs depended on the social representation of the informal work. Consequently, in studies four and five, he proposed that the Theory of Planned Behavior might explain the intention of workers’ decision to engage in informal work restructuring programs.

The Theory of Planned Behavior posits that human behavior is guided by three predictors: 1. Behavioral Beliefs (beliefs about how likely an outcome of the behavior is, and the evaluation of these outcomes); 2. Normative Beliefs (the beliefs about society’s perceptions about how someone should behavior, and a person’s concern with these normative expectations); 3. and Control Beliefs (the beliefs about the presence of factors that may help or hinder performing the behavior, and how powerful those factors are).

Behavioral beliefs are expected to produce a positive or negative attitude about the behavior, normative beliefs are expected to influence the perceived social pressure to conduct the behavior, and control beliefs are expected to predict a person’s perceived behavioral control. Collectively, all three are theorized to lead to the intention to engage in a behavior. Generally, it is expected that the more positive the attitude, subjective norms, and control perceptions are, the more a person will intend on performing the behavior. If a person actually possess control over a behavior, then they are likely to follow-up on this positive impression and actually conduct the behavior.

Specifically, the researchers hypothesized that 1. the more favorable the attitude toward the programs, the greater will be the intention to engage in them; 2. the greater the subjective norms about the programs, the greater the intention to engage; and 3. both of these relationships will be mediated by the participants’ desire to engage in these programs.

In the sixth and seventh studies, the researchers examined if knowledge of the programs, perception of information about them, perceived credibility of the programs, and the actors in charge of the program explained workers’ intentions to engage in the programs.

Knowledge of the programs,  perception of the information about the program, and desire to engage significantly explained a participant’s intention to engage in the restructuring program for both informal workers and informal business promoters. Additionally, knowledge of the programs not only predicted workers’ intentions to engage in the programs, but also their attitudes about the programs. The perceived credibility of the programs was also a major predictor of informal workers’ intentions to engage in the programs, but it was not as strong of a predictor for the employers of these workers. However, the employers were more likely to engage in the programs based on the perception of information regarding the restructuring programs.

In addition to contributing to knowledge on workers’ engagement, Tchagneno explains that there is more work to be done, in order to combat this form of poverty. To further assist these large groups of employees, the following questions still must be answered:

  1. How do people working in these contexts explain their poverty? What are the sociocultural beliefs that structure their attribution of poverty?
  2. Can wages explain the engagement in public policies in this context? What motivates these people to remain in the informal sector despite the alternatives proposed to them through public policies? Do other job demands and resources play a role in their decision to stay or leave informal work?
  3. Are the public broadcasts and messages about these policies actually having a counter-effect with these groups?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *