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The South African Informal Sector: Creating Jobs, Reducing Poverty

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The South African Informal Sector

Speaker: Prof Frederick Fourie

Date: Wednesday, 5th September 2018

Time: 4:15pm

Venue: Eden Grove Seminar Room 2


The series is run by the Neil Aggett Labour Studies Unit (NALSU) and the Departments of Sociology, History, and Economics & Economic History

THE BOOK: While the informal sector is the 'forgotten' sector in many ways, it provides livelihoods, employment and income for about 2.5 million workers and business owners. One in every six South Africans who work, work in the informal sector. Almost half of these work in firms with employees; these firms provide about 850 000 paid jobs - almost twice direct employment in the mining sector. The annual entry of new enterprises is quite high, as is the number of enterprises that grow their employment. There is no shortage of business initiative and desire to grow. However, obstacles and constraints cause hardship and failure, pointing to the need for well-designed policies to enable and support the sector, rather than suppress it. The same goes for formalisation. Recognising the informal sector as an integral part of the economy is a crucial first step towards instituting a 'smart' policy approach.

THE AUTHOR: Professor Frederick Fourie is the Convenor: Unemployment/employment of the REDI3x3 project (Research Project on Employment, Income Distribution and Inclusive Growth). This national research project was based at the Southern African Labour and Development Research Unit (SALDRU) at the University of Cape Town since 2012 and funded by the National Treasury. Frederick also is editor of the online policy forum Econ3x3.

In preparatory work for REDI3x3 he identified the informal sector as a major gap in the South African research and policy literature. He subsequently initiated a multidisciplinary working group, called the Informal Sector Employment Project (ISEP). It involved about 20 researchers from 10 universities as well as NGOs and government departments such as Statistics SA. The book The South African Informal Sector: Creating Jobs, Reducing Poverty, of which he was the editor, is the outcome of this work.

Frederick has a PhD in Economics from Harvard University and has focused on unemployment for the past decade. Earlier he specialised in competition policy, was instrumental in the drafting of the Competition Act and a member of the first Competition Tribunal. He is the author of a widely-used South African macroeconomics textbook now in its fourth edition. A former Distinguished Professor of Economics, he is currently a Research Fellow at Free State University; he also is a research affiliate at the University of Cape Town.