Because: Growing up in the U.S., I had some friends who worked under the table at pizzerias, summer camps, what have you, but it was rare. Coming to Argentina and navigating the world of employment I learned how big a black market can be. In Argentina it is called working en negro, negro meaning black, like the black market, and a large percentage of the population works as such. Estimations as to the number of people working en negro hover around 4.5 million, and the city posts advertisements persuading people to make sure they and their bosses are on the books.
A quote in the article from the study’s author, Robert Neuwirth:
There’s a French word for someone who’s self-reliant or ingenious: débrouillard. This got sort of mutated in the postcolonial areas of Africa and the Caribbean to refer to the street economy, which is called l’économie de la débrouillardise—the self-reliance economy, or the DIY economy, if you will. I decided to use this term myself—shortening it to System D—because it’s a less pejorative way of referring to what has traditionally been called the informal economy or black market or even underground economy. I’m basically using the term to refer to all the economic activity that flies under the radar of government. So, unregistered, unregulated, untaxed, but not outright criminal—I don’t include gun-running, drugs, human trafficking, or things like that.
I was relieved to read the author was mindful to avoid condescension, or as he said “pejorative” terms and phrasing, and just looked at the objective research and facts.
This is a valuable study and I am glad to see an intelligent publication like Wired covered it. I hope more do the same. As Neuwirth shares in the interview, if this informal economy were a country its GDP would be around $10 trillion a year—which is a low estimation—or, the second-largest in the world following the U.S. We should know more about it.