Informal Work and Protest: Undocumented Immigrant Activism in France, 1996-2000
Nominally, the wave of protests by undocumented immigrants that swept through France in the late 1990s successfully challenged the restrictive Pasqua immigration laws. However, despite appearances, the mass movement was at base a labour protest: undocumented workers demonstrated against immigration laws that undermined the way they navigated informal labour markets and, in particular, truncated their opportunities for skill development. Furthermore, it is proposed in this article that examining social movements for their labour content can reveal erosions of working conditions and worker power in informal sector employment. A case study of the Paris garment district is presented to demonstrate how the spread of ‘hybrid-informality' made legal work permits a prerequisite for working informally and relegated undocumented immigrants to lower quality jobs outside the cluster.