Women in the informal economy: Precarious labour in South Africa

Mabilo, Makoma (2018-03)

Thesis (MA)--Stellenbosch University, 2018.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: High levels of unemployment, widespread poverty and growing inequality in South Africa have led to an emphasis on employment as a solution to these problems. In the current post-apartheid era, various scholars have documented a growing flexibility within South Africa’s labour market, which they suggest indicates a breakdown of traditional, formal full-time employment contracts as well as a growth of precarious, marginal and atypical employment. Furthermore, the feminisation of labour, which has placed emphasis on women’s movement into the labour market in South Africa, has concealed important continuities in the contemporary labour market pulling women with low skills into the informal economy out of financial and social need, further deepening divisions marked by race and class. As a result of the post-apartheid labour landscape, increasing numbers of women are setting up informal enterprises and entering informal employment arrangements. The labour of women in the informal sector is significant and it is important that its value is acknowledged. A study that highlights how women in the informal economy are economically and socially positioned sheds light on the lack of equality for women in the South African economy. In light of the above, this research is directed toward understanding the relationship between labour market trends and women’s presence in the informal economy, particularly jobless growth, labour market flexibility, and the feminisation of labour. In addition, the research contextualises women’s rapid entry into poorly paid and precarious work, or self-employment, illustrating the failure of labour legislation mechanisms to promote gender equality post-1994. It also explores how post-apartheid labour market trends contribute to women’s presence in the informal economy and the extent to which women’s care responsibilities are protected by labour legislation mechanisms that aim to promote gender equality. To understand women’s experience and perceptions in the informal economy, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 30 women engaged in various types of informal employment in the Cape Town Metropolitan area. The findings of the research reveal that labour market trends have imposed a gendered precariousness on the lives of women in the informal economy in South Africa. This puts a burden on their productive and reproductive roles. The women in the study were typically primary contributors of entire households, reconciling care burdens with limited incomes — due to the commodification of goods and services and limited possibilities for upward mobility — excluded them from more long-term socio-economic emancipation. Furthermore, the research shows that women’s over-reliance on a single livelihood strategy and the absence of family and neighbourly networks in times of economic difficulty contribute to constraining their capacity to deal with economic risk. To navigate these challenges, this paper calls for a greater reach of gender equal labour legislation to protect women in the informal economy. Particularly, labour legislation should acknowledge gender segmentation in the labour market and women’s involvement in unpaid child and domestic care responsibilities as a source of vulnerability for women in the informal economy.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hoë vlakke van werkloosheid en wydverspreide ongelykheid en armoede in Suid-Afrika het gelei tot ‘n klem op indiensneming as 'n oplossing vir hierdie probleme. In die post apartheidsera het navorsers groeiende buigsaamheid in Suid-Afrika se arbeidsmark gedokumenteer, wat hulle beskou as ‘n aanduiding van die verval van van die tradisionele formele voltydse dienskontrak en die groei van onseker marginale en atipiese indiensneming. Voorts is daar , die feminisering van arbeid, wat klem lê op vroue se toetrede tot die arbeidsmark in Suid-Afrika. Dit het belangrike kontinuiteite in die hedendaagse arbeidsmark verdoesel, wat daartoe lei dat vroue met lae vaardighede, uit ekonomiese en finansiële behoefte na na die informele ekonomie getrek word, wat ras en klasverdelings versterk. As gevolg van die post-apartheid- arbeidslandskap is daar groeiende getalle vroue wat informele besighede stig en informele indiensneming betree. Die bydrae van vroue in die informele ekonomie is betekenisvol en moet erken word. Die studiebeklemtoon hoe vroue in die informele ekonomie ekonomies en sosiaal geposisioneer is en werp lig op die gebrek aan gelykheid vir vroue in die Suid-Afrikaanse ekonomie. Die kern van hierdie navorsing is daarop gemik om die effekte van post-apartheidse arbeidsmarktendense te verstaan, veral werklose groei, arbeidsmarkbuigsaamheid en die feminisering van arbeid op vroue. Hiervoor is statistiese data oor arbeidsmarktendense geraadpleeg. Die navorsing kontekstualiseer vroue se vinnige toetrede tot swakbetaalde, onseker werk of self-indiensneming wat die mislukking van arbeidswetgewingmeganismes toon, wat geslagsgelykheid na 1994 moes bevorder.‘n Studie oor post-apartheid-arbeidsmarktendense dra by om tot die teenwoordigheid van vroue in die informele ekonomie te verstaan, asook die mate waarin vroue in die informele ekonomie se versorgingsverantwoordelikhede nie deur arbeidswetgewing, wat veronderstel is om geslagsgelykheid bevorder, beskerm word nie.Om vroue se ervaring en persepsies in die informele ekonomie te verstaan, is semi-gestruktureerde onderhoude met 30 vroue wat hulself in verskillende tipes informele werk bevind in die Kaapstadse metropolitaanse gebied gevoer. Die bevindings van die navorsing toon aan dat arbeidsmarktendense 'n las vanonsekerheid op die lewens van vroue in die informele ekonomie geplaas het wat ook hul produktiewe en reproduktiewe rolle beinvloed. Vroue in die studie is die primêre broodwinners vir die hele huishouding en versoen lae inkomste met versorgingswerk as gevolg van die kommodifisering van goedere en dienste met beperkte moontlikhede vir opwaartse mobiliteit wat hulle van lang-termyn sosio-ekonomiese bevryding uitsluit. Verder het die navorsing getoon dat vroue se oor-afhanklikheid van 'n enkele bestaanstrategie en die afwesigheid van familie- en gemeenskapsnetwerk in tye van ekonomiese stres hul vermoeë om ekonomiese risiko te hanteer beperk Om hierdie uitdagings te oorkom, vra hierdie studie vir 'n groter reikwydte van arbeidswetgewing wat geslagsgelykheid moet bevorer om vroue in die informele ekonomie te beskerm. Arbeidswetgewing moet die geslagsverdeling in die arbeidsmark en vroue se betrokkenheid by onbetaalde kinder- en huishoudelike verantwoordelikhede as 'n bron van kwesbaarheid erken, -veral vir vroue in die informele ekonomie.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/103486
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