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Day labourers, unemployment and socio-economic development in South Africa

Policy Paper 11

One of the most visible forms of unemployment is the men who stand at the side of the road or on corners every day, waiting for any job that may come their way. Blaauw, Louw and Schenck (2006) estimated that there are nearly 1000 places in South Africa where people are picked up and a minimum of about 45 000, mostly black African men, stand at these sites every day, seeking work. The numbers of day labourers tend to vary from place to place. Inequalities in levels of socio-economic development between different areas of a country occur all over the world. South Africa is no exception and the space-economy is characterised by an uneven distribution of economic activities. There are spatial disparities in unemployment that have existed for decades, within and across countries in the global economy. Empirical studies have shown that there is a geo- graphical or spatial coincidence between levels of unemployment and levels of gross domestic product (GDP) per capita (Suedekum, 2005: 165). The disparities in the spatial patterns of unemployment closely resemble the core-periphery structure of regional GDP per capita. The aim of this paper is twofold. The first objective is to highlight some of the basic demographic dynamics of the research population. 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.

Policy Paper 11
1 January 2008
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