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Informality, Exclusion and (Adverse) Inclusion: Foundations and Key Concepts


Admission requirements

Admission to the MA International Relations.


Informality is a multidimensional phenomenon that reflects complex social, political, and economic realities in contemporary societies. This course offers a critical overview of the concept of informality, focusing on the intersectional dynamics that shape the informal economy and the experiences of informal workers. Drawing on feminist and critical perspectives, the course examines the role of gender, sexuality, race, nationality, debility, class, age and other markers of difference in the production and reproduction of informality, as well as the ways in which informality perpetuates social hierarchies, oppression, and economic inequalities.
The course is divided into four blocks, each exploring a different theoretical approach to informality and its relationship to paid employment. The first block introduces students to the dualistic period of modernization theories that dominated the labor question, and how it has contributed to the current concept of informality. The second block zooms into industrialization debates, where efforts to increase labor productivity led to the bifurcation of the labor market in many late-industrialized countries. In the third block, students will explore the structural adjustment period, in which informality expanded and became politically visible to the state, and the neoclassical perspective on voluntaristic informality. The fourth and last block introduces more recent structuralist accounts that understand informality as directly and structurally connected to the formal economy, expanding in new places and under new guises.
The course aims to challenge stigmatized views of informality and introduce students to various accounts of informality, presented under a plurality of perspectives. Throughout the course, students will develop critical thinking skills and gain a nuanced understanding of the role of informality in contemporary societies. They will analyze the relative importance of modernization, structural transformation, labor productivity, industrial policy, economic liberalization, global supply chains, human capital, and social structures in explaining informality and precarity, paying special attention to the intersectional dynamics of power relations. By the end of the course, students will be equipped with the knowledge and tools to engage in informed discussions and debates about informality and its implications for social justice and economic development.

Course objectives

By the end of this course, students will be able to:

  • Develop a comprehensive understanding of the different conceptualisations of informality, its causes, and its effects across different geographies.

  • Evaluate and analyse the impact of different policies and interventions on informal employment and its relationship to the formal economy.

  • Critically engage with the experiences of exclusion and adverse inclusion in the organisation of informal employment today.

  • Develop a nuanced understanding of the multiple facets of informality and the ways in which they intersect with gender, sexuality, race, nationality, debility, class, age, and other markers of difference.

  • Synthesize complex information from a range of sources to construct persuasive arguments about the challenges of informality and potential policy solutions.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction


Assessment method


  • Peer feedback and presentation 10%

  • Assignment 1: Research Problem (1,500 words) 30%

  • Assignment 2: Final Research Paper (4,000 words) 60%

The final mark for the Informality course will be determined by calculating the weighted average of the grades obtained in each assessment. The assessments are designed to test the students' knowledge acquisition and skills development in critical analysis and nuanced writing. The characteristics of each assignment are outlined below.
For the first assignment, students will write a 1,500-word Research Problem paper in which they will identify a specific research question related to informality, inclusion and exclusion. They will need to justify their choice and provide a brief overview of the existing literature on the topic.
Students will present their draft of the research problem and receive feedback from their peers and instructor. After the oral presentation and written feedback provided by the discussant, students will continue to refine their research problem and incorporate the feedback received into an augmented and improved version.
For the second and final assignment, students will write a 4,000-word Research Paper in which they will provide a detailed analysis of their research question. The paper should engage with a broad range of conceptualisations of informality and explore potential policies while demonstrating an understanding of the critical challenges of informality across different geographies. Students are expected to use nuanced and persuasive writing skills and demonstrate a high level of critical analysis.


  • Peer feedback and presentation 10%

  • Assignment 1: Research Problem (1,500 words) 30%

  • Assignment 2: Final Research Paper (4,000 words) 60%


If a student receives an unsatisfactory grade, they will have the opportunity to resit Assignment 2, the final research paper.

Reading list

All articles and book chapters assigned for this course are available in the Leiden University Catalogue, which is an online database accessible to all students. It is highly recommended that students read the assigned readings before attending the lectures, as they will be central to the course content and discussion. Additional readings may also be recommended throughout the course, and these will be made available to students via the same database.


Enrolment through MyStudyMap is mandatory.
General information about course and exam enrolment is available on the website


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Huizinga


Not applicable.