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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

versión On-line ISSN 2224-7912
versión impresa ISSN 0041-4751


SCHENCK, Rinie; BLAAUW, Derick  y  MATTHEE, Marianne. Max-Neef and the structural vulnerability of day labourers in Mbombela and Emalahleni, South Africa. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2020, vol.60, n.1, pp.142-163. ISSN 2224-7912.

Within the context of growing unemployment and poverty in South Africa, it is important to investigate the vulnerability of people that make a living in the informal sector in order to develop supportive policies and structures. The aim of the article was to explore the structural vulnerability of day labourers by comparing two case studies of day labourers in Emalahleni, a mining community in relative socio-economic decline, and the more socio-economically stable capital, Mbombela, in the province of Mpumalanga in South Africa. Structural vulnerability, according to Du Toit (2005), is embedded in the social, political and economic organisation of a society, with the result that it will be extremely difficult for the person to escape poverty. The person will be unemployed, without any income, without any assets and thus very little social capital. The structurally vulnerable will also be exposed to unequal power relationships, social injustices, marginalisation and restrictive policy frameworks. A comparable multi-case study research design was used in the study. Hundred and ten questionnaires were completed with the day labourers in the two cities, subsequently these were analysed and the results of the two case studies were then compared with each other. Max-Neef's matrix consisting of the finite nine Fundamental Human Needs (FHN) was used to be able to conduct a multidimensional analysis and to order and describe the data. The following results emerged: SUBSISTENCE: The results show that 47% of the day labourers in both Mbombela and Emalahleni are exposed to food insecurity and go without food between 1-21 days per month. An NGO is available in Mbombela where food can be accessed but the day labourers in Emalahleni do not have access to other sources of food. Some individuals will provide food at times though PROTECTION: In general, the day labourers in Mbombela experienced supportive relationships with the police, employers and public. In Emalahleni the day labourers experienced greater harassment from the police. They indicated that due to the fact that there are more immigrants, police will search and interrogate them for documents. Both groups experience that people look down on them as unemployed and dirty UNDERSTANDING: As in other studies in South Africa, this study confirms the fact that a limited number of day labourers completed their schooling due to factors such as poverty, family problems, behavioural issues, and lack of documentation. It was interesting to note that more day labourers (24%) in Emalahleni completed schooling as opposed to 11% only in Mbombela. The reason may be sought in the fact that mines employ people with at least a matric THE AFFECTION: Day labourers in Mbombela have to support 3,5 people on average and in Emalahleni on average 3,8 people are dependent on the day labourer. More day labourers in Mbombela are residing with their families while in Emalahleni most day labourers are not staying with their families and do not have the support of their families. One of the most significant forms of support is the support the day labourers receive from each other CREATION: Day labourers in Mbombela are standing between 5-6 days per week on the curb sides waiting to be picked up for a job to earn an income while the relatively more desperate day labourers in Emalahleni wait between 6-7 days per week for work. In the previous week before the interviews the results also show that 48% of the day labourers in Mbombela were hired while only 38% of the day labourers in Emalahleni were hired during the week before the interviews LEISURE: On the one hand day labourers do not have time for constructive leisure time if they stand between 5-7 days per week on the street corner, however it can also be argued that they have too much time while they wait for long hours. They indicated that although they know that they may not get a job, they still come with the hope that they may access a work and an income FREEDOM: Day labourers have limited freedom, being unemployed, no income, in unequal power relationships and the pressure to be the provider of their families. For them standing on the street is a matter of "not having other options " and choices PARTICIPATION: Being unemployed and standing on the streets to look for work give the day labourers very little bargaining power. Their participation level with the employers was directly related to their level of desperation. In Mbombela more day labourers indicated that they negotiate their wages, while the more desperate day labourers in Emalahleni tend to not negotiate wages IDENTITY: Having the identity as the provider of the family, the day labourers experienced that they fail as provider if they are not able to access work. Not being able to access work and income result in some sleeping rough not to face the hungry family The results indicated that the day labourers in Emalahleni are relatively more structurally vulnerable than the day labourers in Mbombela. They have less support systems and are more desperate and exposed to exploitation and harassment. Serious consideration should be given by all levels of government and the social service professions to create safety nets for the unemployed, formulate policy which can open employment and income opportunities and change the perspectives towards those making a living in the informal sector.

Palabras clave : day labourers; unemployment; structural vulnerability; social justice; Max-Neef; fundamental human needs; Emalahleni; Mbombela.

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