Exploring experiences of unemployment in South African townships
This study aimed to perform an integrated examination of lived unemployment experiences in three successive investigations, presented as three research articles. South Africa’s unemployment rate has constantly increased over the past nine years. Economists, politicians, and policymakers debate and theorise causes and feasible solutions to this socio-economic challenge. Behind the high unemployment rate, unemployed individuals live in poverty, deprived of opportunities for financial independence and latent benefits of a paying income. Psychosocial investigations to obtain in-depth understanding of the lived unemployment reality are lacking. Establishing appropriate interventions and effectively supporting unemployed individuals require understanding of their daily challenges and attitudes. In Article 1, a qualitative systematic literature overview (meta-synthesis) of 13 qualitative research studies aimed at indicating which contextual factors influenced the unemployment experience of the unemployed individuals in seven countries. These factors were the individual as actor and agent, the community as relational component, and the broader public and society as structural component. It was found that unemployed persons had one of two reactions to the negative unemployment impact: either social withdrawal or antisocial behaviour through socially unacceptable conduct. Participants in these studies had a negative perception of the community as relational component and the broader public and society as structural component. The lack of support, help, and empathy from their communities and the broader public and society significantly aggravated the painful, challenging unemployment experience. A supportive subgroup’s security and thoughtfulness partly protected the individual against stigmatisation and marginalisation from the external environment. The second article was a phenomenological in-depth interview investigation into the lived unemployment experiences of 12 township residents in two communities in Gauteng, South Africa. Thematic analysis of narratives clarified the daily struggle for survival and challenges confronting respondents. Similar to Article 1, the surrounding community and government’s lack of help and caring intensified painful, distressing unemployment experiences. The results indicated the township unemployed’s optimism despite challenging living conditions. This view was anchored in a steadfast belief that their circumstances would soon improve due to the omnipotent interventions of God or the ancestors or that the economic-political dispensation was of necessity ripe for change. Since informal entrepreneurial enterprises could be one of the solutions to the progressive local unemployment crisis, the third research article studied the experiences of township entrepreneurs, specifically the enabling and constraining factors with a potential impact on unemployed people’s transitioning to self-employment in entrepreneurial enterprises. A phenomenological, comprehensive interview study of 10 township entrepreneurs found that the core enabling contextual factors were township entrepreneurs’ innovative nature, positive and altruistic mindset, and autonomous and self-deterministic attitude. As in Articles 1 and 2, entrepreneurs experienced community and government institutions as unsympathetic, ignorant, and hostile. Constraining contextual factors were absent government support and a complex, ambivalent relationship with their communities. Recommendations and practical suggestions were made for follow-up research to address the problem.
- Humanities