Third world meets first world

Date of publication: September 1, 1990


Huge changes are occurring in South Africa. Change in Africa has occurred, as it has in Eastern Europe, as a result of social, economic and political pressure. Some of these social and economic pressures are discussed in this paper. Thousands of school-leavers are entering the job market each year, many of them with little chance of finding a job because many are under-qualified and there is tremendous competition for each job available. Thousands of Black immigrants are entering the Republic of South Africa from neighbouring territories, either to escape armed conflict (e.g. Angola. Mogambique) or to escape the poverty and lack of employment prospects in their own country. There is a movement from rural to urban areas within the Republic to escape the prevailing economic depression. It is impossible to quantify the inflow accurately, but the growing number of squatter camps and the over-crowding of townships is obvious to any observer. Despite the earlier strict application of apartheid laws, aimed at restricting Blacks to the so-called home lands, people still flooded to the industrial areas in the hope of obtaining work. In the absence of enough work to go around, semi literate and unskilled people who are still firmly steeped in 3rd World Culture are having to adapt or die. The development of the so called informal sector has been the answer. It is nothing short of phenomenal. Its growth appears exponential. It is providing a livelihood for tens of thousands of people who cannot be absorbed into the formal, 1st World Economy. This paper tries to put the informal sector into perspective: its size and extent is investigated. Some of the difficulties of defining unemployment are briefly touched on. By virtue of its being informal and unrecorded, considerable difficulty exists in trying to research or quantify this market. There is always the fear of unlicensed, unregistered businesses being fined or closed down, and thus any information gathered has to be viewed with considerable caution. Various methods of quantifying this market are discussed. The more important developments within the informal sector are then reviewed, which indicate the resourceful nature of human behaviour. The authorities, on their part, have had little option but to suspend and ignore transgressions of licensing and registration. The human tidal wave has forced legislation to be repealed or suspended thus allowing the free enterprise system to develop more fully. The conclusion is that people can change the structure of society. Recent dramatic political developments are also the result of the inevitability of giving human beings the right to work and live where they would like to. Difficult though it is. the informal and often illegal sector can be researched, but special care is required, with many cross-checks to assure validity.

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