Today's Big Stories

Working poor in South Africa overshadowed by high unemployment rate

A significant proportion of the poor in South Africa are actually employed, despite the frequent association of poverty with joblessness.

A large and growing share of the world’s poor work full time — sometimes sixty or more hours a week – yet still don’t earn enough to lift themselves and their families out of poverty.

According to Statistics South Africa, more than one-fifth of the country's total workforce live in households which are unable to meet their basic minimum food and non-food requirements.

Researchers suggest that South Africa’s triple challenge of poverty, inequality and unemployment requires an assessment of how the the labour market is linked with the goal of poverty reduction.

Africa Melane spoke with Dr. Michael Rogan, Senior Researcher in the Neil Aggett Labour Studies Unit (Nalsu) at Rhodes University's Institute of Social and Economic Research.

We have an obvious unemployment problem in South Africa, and that takes away the attention from the working poor.

Dr. Michael Rogan, Nalsu Senior Researcher

According to Rogan, many households have to decide whether to spend money on food or other basic needs such a transport or healthcare.

Rogan says that 36% of South Africa's workforce live in households that cannot afford R1 400 of goods and foods per month.

The working poor become vulnerable to other socio-economic risks like bad health and lower levels of quality education.

Though the country's social grants and other state measures are fairly generous, Rogan argues that they fail to cater to able-bodied working-aged South Africans.

Listen to the full conversation, with Africa Melane standing in, on The Redi Tlhabi Show:


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