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Citation Information

Type Journal Article - South African Geographical Journal
Title Urbanization in South Africa and the changing character of migrant labour
Author(s)
Volume 86
Issue 1
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2004
Page numbers 7-16
URL http://blues.sabinet.co.za/WebZ/images/ejour/sageo/sageo_v86_n1_a2.pdf?sessionid=01-58004-1130933825​&format=F
Abstract
In South Africa migrant labour is indelibly associated with apartheid and influx control. But even since the abolition of influx control it has continued on a considerable scale. The purpose of this paper is to identify some of the features of migrant labour as it exists today and to draw out some of its implications for urbanization. Several perspectives are explored. One is constituted by the huge variety of what one might call migrant labour timespace geographies. Some continue, classic migrant worker style, to have wives and children in areas of origin and visit on a monthly basis; some have wives and children in the city and visit more infrequently; some visit rarely but want to retire there; others see the place of origin as purely where they want to be buried; while yet others seem to be on the road to permanent urbanization. By no means is it the case, however, that the spectrum defined by, at one end, those most committed to a homestead in the deep rural areas, and at the other, those least committed corresponds to a dimension of attitudinal variation. All manner of seemingly incongruous attitudes and social and financial investments can go together. The one constant is the significance of extended networks of kin and ‘homeboys’ in mediating access to the city both in terms of jobs and housing. These networks are often multi-urban, so it is not unusual to encounter someone who has had jobs in different cities, each time mediated by a relative or friend. Clearly the continuation of migrant labour, the different forms into which it has differentiated itself, need to be seen against the backcloth of urban labour markets that are vastly changed since the heyday of apartheid.

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