The urban informal sector in Uruguay: Its internal structure, characteristics, and effects

Alejandro Portes, Silvia Blitzer, John Curtis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


The literature on Third World urbanization has focused increasingly on the informal sector as a mechanism to explain, first, the survival strategies of the poor excluded from regular employment and, second, the strategies of formal firms to bypass regulatory constraints and reduce costs. This paper pursues these lines of research in a special context, namely that of Uruguay, a small country which followed a protective labor policy for many years, but reversed it during the 1970s and early 1980s. Data come from a sample of 700 households in Montevideo, which are representative of the low-income neighborhoods that comprise approximately two-thirds of the city's population. Interviews were held in 1983-1984. The analysis focuses on the following issues: (1) the proportion of individuals and households who participate in the informal economy; (2) the types of informality that exist in both principal and secondary occupations; (3) the effects of informal employment on income; (4) differences in age, sex and education between different types of workers; (5) changes in informal employment over time. Implications of findings for general definitions and hypotheses about the informal sector are examined; the relationship of results to the neoliberal experiments attempted in Uruguay between 1973 and 1984 is discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)727-741
Number of pages15
JournalWorld Development
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1986
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Development
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Economics and Econometrics


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