Journal Articles

The role of family in the township informal economy of food and drink in KwaMashu, South Africa

Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to provide a qualitative investigation of family employment
dynamics in the KwaMashu township economy.
Design/methodology/approach – Using a small area census research method, the researchers identified
1,556 businesses located in a settlement of 2 km2
. Of these enterprises, 694 (45 percent) traded in fast moving
consumer goods, notably food and/or drink. The main retailers were small shops (spaza shops) and liquor
outlets (bars or shebeens), greengrocers, sellers of meat and poultry products, house shops, restaurants,
takeaways and tuckshops. Firm surveys were conducted with 270 businesses in four predominant sectors:
liquor retail, grocery retail, early childhood educators and hair care businesses.
Findings – The research found that 40 percent of the surveyed firms in these sectors employ family
members on a full-time basis, whereas merely 26 percent of firms employ family members on a part-time
basis. In the grocery retail sector, about half of family employees are remunerated on a wage basis, the other
half are paid in-kind (40 paper of the total) or on a profit share arrangement. In liquor retail and educare
sectors, the majority of family members are paid wages. Female-run enterprises employ less family members
on a full-time basis (except in the grocery sector), yet employ more family members on a part-time basis with a
higher portion of wages paid in-kind.
Research limitations/implications – Family plays an important role in township enterprises. Beyond
direct employment, township enterprises fulfill an important social protection and neighborhood relationship
function for business operators and their families. The familial relationship to micro-enterprises should be
seen through the lens of bricolage (Gras and Nason, 2015).
Originality/value – In this respect, the authors confirm three benefits of family firms: the creation of social
protection though family beneficiation, the provision of employment and work experience and the strategic
use of family resources.
Keywords Family, Informal economy
Paper type Research paper



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