Accepted paper:

Employment, livelihoods and marginality in two South African urban peripheries


Jennifer Houghton (University of Sheffield)
Alison Todes (University of the Witwatersrand)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores relationships between peripherality and marginality in South African cities through focusing on people's experiences in accessing work and livelihoods in peripheral areas experiencing economic growth and decline: northern eThekwini and Ekangala/Bronkhorstspruit, Tshwane.

Paper long abstract:

The relationship between peripherality and marginality in cities has been much debated, with an emerging sense that both these concepts and their relationships should be understood as complex, dynamic and shifting. The periphery of cities can be characterised by both growth and decline. South African cities have changing, varied peripheries which have been shaped inter alia by apartheid policies and their aftermath; shifting municipal boundaries of the post-apartheid era; auto-construction; peri-urbanisation; and state and private sector investment in infrastructure, housing and economic development. These conditions and dynamics have implications for relationships between peripherality and marginality. This paper uses both quantitative and qualitative data to explore these relationships by focusing on people's experiences in accessing work and livelihoods in two urban peripheries in South Africa: the eThekwini north area, where infrastructure investment and growth has been occurring around the development of a new airport, industry, retail, housing and road infrastructure; and the Ekangala/Bronkhorstspruit area on the edge of Tshwane which has experienced complex patterns of industrial growth and decline alongside housing development post-apartheid. In Ekangala/Bronkhorstspruit, the findings suggest economic decline, high unemployment and associated socio-economic marginalisation but this is differentiated within the communities and spaces within the case study area. In Northern eThekwini, there is evidence of high unemployment and a skills mismatch. More limited employment for local low-income people has been generated than anticipated. As in Ekangala/Bronkhorstspruit, experiences are differentiated across the case study area, further complicated by the impacts of people moving into and within the urban periphery.

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The politics of life on the urban margins in South Africa