Rural/urban and migration
The economic and social crisis induced by Covid-19 is unfolding in different ways across the country. New evidence from the NIDS-CRAM survey reveals that the pandemic has widened pre-existing inequalities between cities and rural areas. Within cities it has magnified the gap between suburbs, townships and informal settlements. A premature withdrawal of government relief schemes could aggravate the hardship and suffering in poor communities that have come to rely on these resources following the jobs slump.
Moving to a city in search of work seems to pay off for many poor people in the countryside. Data that track changes over time indicate that as many as 385 000 people were lifted from poverty between 2008 and 2014 after moving from rural to urban areas – their poverty levels were halved together with a fall in unemployment. Government ambivalence about urbanisation should be replaced by a more positive and pro-active approach.
Several researchers in the REDI3x3 project focused on poverty in rural areas in the Eastern Cape, which contains two former apartheid homelands, the Ciskei and the Transkei. This article analyses the main messages of this research, highlighting the negative impact of poor land governance and uncertainty of tenure; knock-on effects are apparent in areas like Hout Bay and Marikana. [An edited version of this article appeared in Business Day on 10 November 2017. See references.]
The dominant perspective on the economic situation of the former homelands is that long-term, deliberate neglect has left a durable legacy of poverty and stagnation. While this may be largely correct, there is also evidence to suggest that the former homelands are dynamic. This article presents some evidence on population, employment and unemployment, in particular through a focus on the evolving nature of the linkages between former homeland towns and their rural environs.
This article compares the labour-market status of migrants and locally born residents. The focus is on migration into Cape Town and the Western Cape from elsewhere in South Africa. Survey and census data show that migrants were more likely to be unemployed than residents in 2001 and 2011. However, in 2011 migrants were also more likely to be employed and to be economically active (working or wishing to work) than locally born residents. They are also more likely to be self-employed than non-migrants.
South Africa is the most unequal country in the world in terms of people’s income. But, two decades after apartheid’s demise, why has our urban and rural geography changed so little – and how does this reinforce inequality? This was the question at the centre of a recent REDI workshop on spatial inequality that brought together researchers, policymakers, and planners working in both urban and rural spaces.
The time and monetary costs of commuting are extremely high and have increased over the last 20 years. They imply a substantial ‘tax’ on the wages of those who commute to work, notably on the users of public transport. Commuters increasingly use private vehicles and minibus taxis today compared to 1993. The government’s public transport subsidies seem to benefit those in the (lower) middle of the income distribution rather than low-income workers.
Informal urban settlements have a poor reputation as hotspots of social unrest, squalor and crime. Yet there is another side to them: as communities that are determined to lift themselves out of poverty via jobs in the city. In a society marked by severe social and spatial inequalities, these places may be useful vehicles for upward mobility. The ambivalence of government policy towards informal settlements needs to be replaced by a more positive approach.
It is important to know whether a social grant such as the old age pension eases financial constraints in rural areas, thereby allowing young men to migrate to urban areas for work – or whether these grants encourage idleness and dependency. This study finds no evidence of the latter. Instead, for young rural males there is an increase in their chances of migrating and finding work when a member of the household starts receiving the pension. Notably, these effects are only present for young men with at least a matric.