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Informal Work  

Mahima Saxena

Informal work refers to a variety of nontraditional work and employment arrangements. It is different from to work in the informal economy, even though the terms are often used interchangeably. In the extant literature, terms such as precarious work, gig or freelance work, and nontraditional work are also used to describe informal work. Informal work is a ubiquitous phenomenon, found globally, across all or most nations in the world. The majority of research on informal work has occurred within the fields of economics, sociology, labor law, policy, and related disciplines. It has been recognized that not enough attention in the field of psychology, specifically Industrial and Organizational psychology, has been paid to informal work. For the research that does exist in different scholarly and applied disciplines, there is often terminological overlap and confusion with regard to different forms and formats of alternative work arrangements. In addition, the study of informal work is often plagued by negative stereotypes and colonially inspired schools of thought that consider traditional, generational, and nonorganizational work of a lower standard and quality than professionally driven office-going jobs. The latter are mainly a by-product of the Industrial Revolution in Western Europe and fail to account for the multitude of work and work formats found around the world. Further research and policy attention on informal work is needed to provide conceptual clarity on informal work arrangements and informal workers. Psychology can contribute toward an in-depth understanding of informal work, specifically by focusing on a person-centric, first-person experience of work that is often characterized as informal. Industrial and Organizational psychology can also shed light on the themes and characteristics of work that is typically considered informal. Ultimately, taking a decolonized, international, and boundaryless approach to the psychological study of informal work can contribute both to science and to key policy initiatives surrounding inclusive, global, and sustainable development and human flourishing that leave no one behind.


Cross-Cultural Issues in Industrial, Work, and Organizational Psychology  

Sharon Glazer and Catherine Kwantes

For the first half century of industrial, work, and organizational psychology’s (IWOP’s) existence, the role of culture has been ambiguous at best. Attention to culture in IWOP started to take form in the 1970s, and in the last 20 years culture has begun to be integrated into IWOP research more generally. This integration has led to explorations of culture in the workplace far beyond the initial focus on organizational management theories and practices to looking at cultures’ relationships with all aspects of organizational and employee experiences. Most cross-cultural studies in IWOP research clearly show the importance of understanding societal culture’s impact on organizations, institutions, work, and workers. Merely transferring existing theories and practices of IWOP to new contexts without a clear understanding of whether those theories and practices make sense across cultures is unlikely to be successful. Through globalization and the multiculturalization of workforces, employees are increasingly interacting with people of varying cultural backgrounds on a far more regular basis than in the past. This change has spurred attention to how culture has impacted theories, research, and practices in some key IWOP theoretical domains, including leadership; occupational safety, stress, and health; precarious and decent work; trust and trustworthiness; and diversity, equity, and inclusion in the multinational organization.


Humanitarian Work and Organizational Psychology  

Stuart C. Carr

Humanitarian simply means putting people first. Humanitarian work and organizational psychology puts people first in at least two major ways. One is by enabling humanitarian workers and organizations (like aid charities, for instance) to become more effective in what they do. The other is by aiming to help make working conditions, regardless of sector or type of work, humanitarian. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the International Labor Organization (ILO) associated the world of work with a range of inhumane and unsustainable working conditions. A ‘new normal’ for working conditions was insecure, precarious work, working poverty, and income inequality. Viewed through this lens, the COVID-19 virus became a disruptor, with the potential to either set back or dramatically advance the preexisting 2016–2030 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs had been focusing, and subsequently refocused minds even more, on “eradicating poverty in all its forms,” everywhere. A focal point within humanitarian work and organizational psychology is that any eradication of poverty, post COVID-19, must include not simply a return to 2019-style economic slavery-like conditions but unfettered access to sustainable livelihood. Humanitarian work and organizational psychology arguably contributes toward advancing the SDGs, and putting people first, in at least four main ways. Using the metaphor of a house, first its foundations are ethical (serving empowerment rather than power), historical (in humanitarian work and human services like employee assistance programs), conceptual (replacing the idea of “job” with sustainable livelihood), and political (advancing new diplomacies for bending political will to humanitarian evidence and ethics). Second, its levels are systemic, spanning individual (e.g., selecting for humanitarian values), organizational (e.g., helping food banks during the COVID-19 pandemic, providing startup training for business entrepreneurs in low-income neighborhoods), and societal (advocating for humanitarian interventions like wage subsidies and other forms of social protection). Third, its spaces traverse poverty lines; minimum, living, and maximum wages; formal and informal sectors; and transitions and transformations among unemployment, underemployment, and decent work. Fourth, its vistas include promoting livelihood security for all by balancing automation with social protection like universal basic income (UBI), and organizational social responsibility (protecting the biosphere). In these ways we may also sustain our own livelihoods, as humanitarian work and organizational psychologists.