During the April recess Prof Derick Blaauw was part of a multidisciplinary research team doing fieldwork in Cape Town as part of a national study of day labouring in South Africa.
The team consisting of Derick and Professor Rinie Schenck of the Department of Social Work at the University of the Western Cape met the 11 fieldworkers on Monday 3 April 2017 at the UWC Campus for a day of fieldworker training. The fieldworkers were all recruited from graduates of the University of the Western Cape’s Social Work Department. The fieldworkers were carefully selected to accommodate all the languages expected to be encountered on the streets of the Mother City. The training was preceded by two weeks of recognizance by Prof Schenck and Ms Iris Brown to confirm existing and identifying possible new hiring sites. The next step was to execute the operation. Two kombis was used as transport and the team met up at the UWC Campus on Tuesday 4 March. What followed was six days of early mornings (getting up at five o’clock) and long hours on the streets interviewing day labourers trying to make a living from informal employment. The fieldwork went well and 450 interviews were conducted. The fieldworkers were debriefed and valuable time was spent reflecting on the shared experiences of the fieldworkers. This type of research does not leave anybody untouched.
Prof Derick Blaauw reports from the field:
From 13 to 16 September 2016 Derick Blaauw joined Prof Rinie Schenck of the Department of Social Work at UWC in East London where fieldwork continued on their NRF funded joint research project on day labourers in South Africa. They were joined by 6 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 Tuesday was spent on training and fieldwork commenced on the Wednesday. More than 150 interviews were held with day labourers across the city during the week. The fieldwork itself brought important ethical issues as well as the theme of social justice to the fore.
On 22 August 2016 Derick Blaauw & Anmar Pretorius met with Ms Crystal Beukes and colleagues from Men on the side of the road (MSR) in Windhoek, Namibia as part of an ongoing NRF-funded research project among informally employed day labourers in South Africa. Namibia has an unemployment rate of around 36%. MSR is an initiative to combat this state of affairs and was established in 2007 by the Dutch Reformed Church Eros. It is a registered welfare and non-profit organisation in Windhoek that aims to improve the skills of Namibian men as well as to prepare them for the job market. Unemployed men are invited to register on MSR’s database. Opportunities exist to take part in the training and placement program for its members. Opportunities include training in for example career guidance, English literacy, money management and entrepreneurship. Ultimately the aim is for members to increase the possibility of getting a permanent job placement. MSR has approximately 1 000 unemployed men on its database. Members get Identity cards listing the skills they have. If a member of the public needs any unskilled or semi-skilled workers they can contact MSR who then aims to put them in touch with suitable workers
The program is supported by the private sector and MSR liaise with the Ministry of Labour and the National Training Authority in Namibia. Derick and Anmar was invited back to Windhoek to continue the discussions and the forging of ties and sharing of ideas. For further information follow MSR Namibia’s Facebook Page.
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.