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The urban informal sector in South Africa : what options for development? : a case study of KwaMashu, Natal.

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In the past few years there has been a dramatic increase in research on the informal sector in South Africa. Motivating this research, besides academic curiosity, is growing concern over poverty and unemployment amongst South African blacks. The general belief that these factors have contributed significantly to the political unrest now sweeping the country is another encouragement to research. What is being increasingly suggested, not only by academics but also by government officials, businessmen and others, is that the informal sector could be developed in appropriate directions to provide jobs raise living standards and (hence) promote political stability. Attention is now being focused on the question of how best to achieve this objective. In this thesis, proposals for 'developing ' the informal sector in South Africa are examined by a careful analysis of the relevant literature and an in-depth case study of the KwaZulu township, KwaMashu. The first question that needs to be addressed is how to conceptualise the informal sector. There are many interpretations, depending in part on the stage of development attained by the local economy, of what comprises this sector. Does it only consist of the poor, the unlicenced, the untaxed, the unprotected, the harassed? There are many perspectives, too, on whether the informal sector is independent and autonomous or whether it is integrated into the economy in ways that might impede or facilitate its development. It has been argued, for example, that the state and capital determine the parameters of the informal sector at a level most functional to their requirements. These interpretations are critically examined in Chapters One and Two with particular reference to South Africa. Attention is then directed towards the particular case of KwaMashu. The research methodology is discussed in Chapter Three. The approach adopted here combined random-sample questionnaires and case study methods. In order to locate the research in its geographical, temporal and political setting the history of KwaMashu is also briefly reviewed. The research results (which cover the extent, viability, potential and difficulties of the informal sector), are examined in Chapters Four to Six. Chapter Four gives the results of the survey - including three detailed case studies and the findings of the questionnaire survey. In Chapter Five garment makers and retailers (two categories which together make up a large component of the KwaMashu informal sector) are analysed more closely using information obtained from case studies. The field work included interviews, not only with informal sector participants, but also with the officials whose decisions influence the development of the informal sector. The latter is examined in Chapter Six. An important finding particularly relevant for policy decisions - concerned the division in levels of informal sector operation and the policy decisions affecting each level. The concluding chapter combines the findings of literature surveys with the empirical results from KwaMashu in order to assess the opportunities for and the limits to informal sector 'development' in South Africa. Practical and realistic means by which those in this sector might be assisted are also discussed in some detail.


Thesis (M.Dev.Studies)-University of Natal, Durban, 1985.


Informal sector (Economics)--Kwazulu Natal--Kwamashu., KwaMashu (KwaZulu-Natal)--Economic conditions., Theses--Development studies.