From 11 to 14 June Derick Blaauw joined Prof Rinie Schenck of the Department of Social Work at UWC in Port Elizabeth where fieldwork commenced as part of a joint research project on day labourers in South Africa. They were joined by 10 field workers, recruited from graduates of the Department of Social work at NMMU and the University of Fort Hare as well as the University of the Western Cape. The Monday was spent on training and fieldwork commenced on the Tuesday. More than 100 interviews were held with day labourers across the city during the week.
The fieldworkers reported that many of the respondents were hungry and did not achieve employment success more than once or twice per week. Real wages decreased since the previous survey in 2007/08 and competition for existing jobs increased markedly as well. Migration and the presence of foreign born migrants is a reality, bringing tension to the street corners. The research team encountered a Zimbabwean teacher on one of the hiring sites. This confirm the dire situation in Zimbabwe hinting to another wave of immigrants making their way to South Africa.
Some respondents indeed did not want to participate – a choice we as researchers obviously respected. After completion of the fieldwork a debriefing session was held where all the fieldworkers expressed their concern in terms of the socio-economic position of these vulnerable people. As researchers we can highlight their plight but the biggest challenge in future will be to offer some form of hope for those who have or are close to losing it.
The project is continuing, with fieldwork in East London and Cape Town next on the agenda in the coming months.