Original Research

‘Sometimes you don’t make enough to buy food’: An analysis of South African street waste pickers’ income

Kotie Viljoen, Derick Blaauw, Rinie Schenck
Journal of Economic and Financial Sciences | Vol 11, No 1 | a186 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/jef.v11i1.186 | © 2018 Kotie Viljoen, Derick Blaauw, Rinie Schenck | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 09 February 2018 | Published: 30 August 2018

About the author(s)

Kotie Viljoen, Department of Economics and Econometrics, School of Economics, University of Johannesburg, South Africa
Derick Blaauw, School of Economics, Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, North-West University, South Africa
Rinie Schenck, Department of Social Work, Faculty of Community and Health, University of the Western Cape, South Africa

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Limited opportunities for the unskilled in the formal economy force many into informal street waste-picking activities. The income from these activities is not sufficient to lift them out of poverty. This article analyses income data of 873 street waste pickers to assess how identified factors explain income variations among them and whether they can endogenously influence their earnings. The results of descriptive, ordinary least square regression and quantile regression analyses show that they can do little to improve their income except to use a trolley and to start early in the morning. To improve their income, policy interventions to integrate them into waste management plans are recommended.


waste pickers; income; poverty; recycling, waste; informal economy


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