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. Keywords
Day labourersLevels of socio-economic developmentMultivariate statistical analysesUnemployment Introduction
Unemployment remains one of the major macro-economic problems facing South Africa. One of the most visible forms of unemployment is the day labourers who stand at the side of the road or on street corners every day, waiting for any job that may come their way (Blaauw et al. 2006:458). Day labouring is not restricted to South Africa. It is a global phenomenon that occurs in both developed and developing countries. Valenzuela et al. (2006) conducted a nationwide study on day labour in the USA. On any given day in the USA, approximately 117,600 workers either seek day labour jobs or work as day labourers (Valenzuela et al. 2006: iii). In Japan, these day labour pools are known as yoseba. Much of the poverty in post-war Japan was hidden in the insecure margins of the labour market (Masami 2000). In an attempt to address the lack of research on day labour in South Africa, in 2004, Blaauw et al. (2006) conducted a case study research project focussing on day labourers in Pretoria. They investigated the employment history of day labourers in Pretoria and the income earned by these labourers. The day labourers involved in the study were mainly male, fairly young, generally low skilled and usually worked in harsh conditions. The researchers came to the conclusion that being a day labourer can provide a means of survival, but on average, these men earn inadequate income as far as supporting a family and other dependants is concerned. It was stressed that a repeat of this and other surveys is needed to determine the transitions in this activity and the way in which day labouring relates to the economic well-being of the people involved in it (Blaauw et al. 2006:470). The 2004 Pretoria study laid the groundwork for a countrywide research project among day labourers in South Africa. For different reasons, the numbers of day labourers tend to vary from place to place. These reasons are not necessarily linked to the existence of economic activity or the lack thereof. In some rural towns, such as Vredendal, Pongola and Musina, there were no day labourers visible on street corners or anywhere else. In the case of Musina, day labourers are not visible because of the town’s close location to the Zimbabwean border and the resultant police presence. In Vredendal, on the other hand, an organised employment system is in place, making it unnecessary for day labourers to stand at the side of the road. Rural towns such as Aliwal-North, however, had a huge presence of day labourers. In metropolitan areas such as Pretoria, Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town, day labourers stood at many different sites and, along...
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