“Sometimes you don’t make enough to buy food” – an analysis of South African street waste pickers’ income

28 April 2016
Publication Type: Working Paper
JEL Code: E2, E26, I30, J40, O17

In this paper we use income data of 873 street waste pickers in South Africa to assess whether their income is sufficient to make a living and to identify the possible factors that may influence their income. The results can assist policy makers to make informed decisions in designing and implementing policies aimed at improving the street waste pickers’ income earning potential. The results of a linear and logistic regression analysis show that street waste pickers’ income is low and many of the street waste pickers in South Africa are trapped in persistent and chronic poverty. The findings further show that the only variables under the direct control of street waste pickers that may have a small positive effect on their income are the use of a trolley and the number of hours worked. Most of the variance in the daily income is explained by the prices of, access to, and the quality of recyclable waste collected over which the street waste pickers have little or no control. This leaves street waste pickers with little scope to improve their income and consequently their socio-economic conditions. Local governments can, however, create an environment and infrastructure in which higher levels of quality waste are made accessible to the street waste pickers.

Working paper 603
1 April 2016
Journal: The Journal of Economic and Financial Sciences