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Day Labourers, Unemployment and Socio-economic Development in South Africa

Abstract

One of the most visible forms of unemployment is the men who stand at the side of the road or on corners daily, waiting for any job that may come their way. It is estimated that there are nearly 1,000 places in South Africa where a minimum of about 45,000, mostly black African men, stand, waiting to be picked up. The South African space economy is characterised by an uneven distribution of economic activities. International empirical studies have shown that there is a geographical or spatial coincidence between levels of unemployment and levels of gross domestic product per capita. The first objective of this article is to highlight some of the basic demographic dynamics of day labourers. The second is to investigate the spatial distribution of and the relationship between day labourers, unemployment and the general level of socio-economic development in South Africa. Day labourers share a number of common characteristics, but there were also obvious differences in their morale and spirit. The analyses showed that there is also a general spatial coincidence between levels of socio-economic development and the numbers of day labourers in South Africa, with a relatively high correlation coefficient between the two.

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Acknowledgements

The authors wish to thank the National Research Foundation’s Thuthuka Fund, Economic Research Southern Africa (ERSA) and the University of South Africa for financial assistance with this research project. The authors would also like to express their sincere gratitude to Ms Maggie Kgwefane, who did a lot of the fieldwork for the project. The extremely valuable comments of an anonymous referee of Economic Research Southern Africa (ERSA) are greatly appreciated.

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Correspondence to Alet Harmse.

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Harmse, A., Blaauw, P. & Schenck, R. Day Labourers, Unemployment and Socio-economic Development in South Africa. Urban Forum 20, 363 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12132-009-9067-8

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Keywords

  • Day labourers
  • Levels of socio-economic development
  • Multivariate statistical analyses
  • Unemployment