Original Research

Day labouring in Southern Africa after the global economic and financial crisis: The case of Pretoria and Windhoek

Anthonie M. van Wyk, Phillip F. Blaauw, Catherina Schenck
Journal of Economic and Financial Sciences | Vol 16, No 1 | a825 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/jef.v16i1.825 | © 2023 Anthonie M. van Wyk, Phillip F. Blaauw, Catherina Schenck | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 17 August 2022 | Published: 31 May 2023

About the author(s)

Anthonie M. van Wyk, School of Economic Sciences, Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa
Phillip F. Blaauw, School of Economic Sciences, Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa
Catherina Schenck, DSI/NRF/CSIR Chair in Waste and Society, Department of Social Work, Faculty of Community and Health Sciences, University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa

Abstract

Orientation: The global economic and financial crisis (GEFC) represented a large asymmetric shock, impacting on informal economic activity (for example day labouring) in Southern African countries such as Namibia and South Africa.

Research purpose: The aim was to compare pre- and post-GEFC labour market outcomes of day labourers in Windhoek (Namibia) and Pretoria (South Africa).

Motivation for the study: Evidence of the micro-economic impact of exogenous shocks on informal labour markets is scarce, despite the informal sector often enduring most of the impact of such shocks.

Research approach/design and method: A comparative case study using a mixed-method design was used to conduct fieldwork in Pretoria in 2015 and Windhoek in 2017. Results were compared with data obtained prior to the GEFC.

Main findings: Real earnings of day labourers in Pretoria and Windhoek have stagnated since the GEFC. Infrequent levels of employment renders ‘bad months’ as the reality for most day labourers – leaving day labourers structurally more vulnerable than before the GEFC.

Practical/managerial implications: The results question the theoretical shock absorber function often ascribed to the informal sector in time of financial strife. Governments are urged to rethink the depth and level of support afforded to the informal sector in such times.

Contribution/value-add: This study enhances the understanding of the structural vulnerability of the informally wage-employed in Southern Africa. Furthermore, it provides initial signs of the possible presence of long-term hysteresis unemployment within the informal labour markets as a result of a shock such as the GEFC.


Keywords

day labouring; informal sector; informally wage-employed; unemployment; Windhoek; Pretoria

JEL Codes

E26: Informal Economy • Underground Economy

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 8: Decent work and economic growth

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