The South African informal sector – Providing jobs, reducing poverty

by Frederick Fourie

Although South Africa’s informal sector is small compared to other developing countries, it nevertheless provides livelihoods, employment and income for millions of workers and business owners. Almost half of informal-sector workers work in firms with employees. The annual entry of new enterprises is quite high, as is the number of informal enterprises that grow their employment. There is no shortage of entrepreneurship 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, rather than ignoring it, is a crucial first step towards instituting a `smart’ policy approach. The South African Informal Sector is strongly evidence- and data-driven, with substantial quantitative contributions combined with qualitative findings – suitable for an era of increased pressure for evidence-based policy-making – and utilises several disciplinary perspectives.

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