Academic journal article Journal of Management Research

Human Resource Management in the Informal Sector in Senegal: In Search of a Model

Academic journal article Journal of Management Research

Human Resource Management in the Informal Sector in Senegal: In Search of a Model

Article excerpt

Abstract

This paper studies HRM in the informal sector. More specifically, we want to identify practices of HRM in the IS, explain how they are put in practice, and suggest elements of a theory of HRM in the IS in Senegal. We want to show that the integration of informal units' activities in existing social processes, allows for a type of HRM with a high level of (or potential for) coherence between social, economic and environmental issues. In order to do that, we rely on the study of units of production of goods and services involved in different trades, namely clothing, car repairing, metalworking, woodworking and shoemaking. The focus, as mentioned earlier, is on units regrouped in specialized areas, in Dakar, the capital of Senegal. Our method of investigation is empirical, qualitative and inductive.

Our analysis of the data resulted in the identification of the following categories: The socio-cultural context of the informal sector; the workplace and practices of HRM, and Other contextual factors.

In the informal sector, HRM is more about processes than results. It is not about the systematic minimization of transaction costs; empirical data show that processes of socialization for the integration of apprentices are central and part of motivation practices. Thus, HRM in the IS cannot be about the systematic maximization of material gains; it is more about the reinforcement of a tradition and an organizational culture. This may explain why growth objectives are often excluded from owners' explicit agendas.

Keywords: Informal sector, HRM, Theory of HRM, Contextual factor

Introduction

This paper aims at understanding and explaining human resources management in the informal sector in Senegal. Two reasons justify our focus on this sector. First, the informal sector is a key component of African economies1; it is more representative of African labor markets than the formal sector. Second, it has not been given the attention that it deserved by business teaching and research in African universities2.

This is largely related to the fact that research on the management of the firm in African contexts, conducted by African scholars, has mainly focused on how the "modern" formal firm in Africa act differently from or similarly to the firm in the Western world. In this debate, the argument has mostly been culturalist (Adeleye, 2011 & Tidjani, 1995); the dominant model has been the Northern American and European firms. Such a research has certainly some comparative value, and may constitute a first step toward understanding the firm in Africa. However, most of the time, it did not go beyond the comparative exercise. Furthermore, the problem of comparative research based on a dominant model is that it leads to an identification of practices that are done differently, not on practices done exclusively by individual actors or organizations that are the object of the comparison.

Research on the informal sector does not lead to these drawbacks for many reasons. Western economies are assumed to be mostly formal, thus not comparable to African economies, so far largely informal. Because businesses in the informal sector in Africa are imbedded into social processes, they are analyzed on the basis of their specificities, and their intrinsic values, not in comparison to Western values3. In that respect, the informal sector is a potentially important candidate for a research agenda on the construction of a theory of the firm in Africa.

This is certainly a difficult agenda. It is one that requires a lot more research on business in Africa, especially in its francophone part. It especially requires research that is not limited to general management issues, but includes more specific issues such as marketing, finance, accounting, human resource management (HRM), information systems, to cite but a few examples. This paper is an attempt to understand HRM in the informal sector and to contribute to the construction of theories on business in Africa. …

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