Vulnerability in employment: Evidence from South Africa

Type Working Paper - DPRU Working Paper 201604
Title Vulnerability in employment: Evidence from South Africa
Issue 04
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2016
Page numbers 1-36
Authors who have tried to understand vulnerability in employment have made the link not just between vulnerability and work, but between work and livelihoods. Bocquier et al. (2010) understand vulnerability as “how hard it is for individuals to manage … risks”. Altman (2007:22) talks about “the different ways that households assemble a livelihood.” Dubois and Rousseau (2001) in Bocquier et al. (2010: 1313) define vulnerability as “a person’s own structure of capabilities”. The literature on economic vulnerability is still emerging. Early definitions build on Amartya Sen’s capability approach (Bocquier et al., 2010). Vulnerability is about a myriad of ways in which individuals are or are not able to cope with risks that could take them closer to being unambiguously poor (Bocquier et al., 2010). Vulnerability in the labour market can take many forms and is often associated with the term ‘precarious work’. Ways in which workers can be vulnerable include working in the informal sector; earning low wages relative to the cost of living; not having a written contract; working in adverse conditions; not having access to benefits; and a lack of job security; amongst other examples.

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