Young People in Informal Employment - It's a Job, but No Work, No Income

Monday, 16 July 2018: 15:30
Oral Presentation
Ndeshi NAMUPALA, University of Namibia, Namibia
Namibia’s socioeconomic context is characterised by high unemployment, especially amongst youth. Young people are first to enter unstable and informal employment in order to join the active labor force. Public spaces are increasingly becoming spaces through which living and livelihoods are earned. What in apartheid times once used to be spatial segregation induced by racial discrimination is now replicated by socioeconomic mechanisms.Post-apartheid reformed policies/laws aimed at creating opportunities for social mobility and economic advancement for Namibians seem to have benefited very few people and often connected to those in power. Young people voiced their disappointments at the deepening social inequalities in the country.This resulted in the emergence of youths’ sociopolitical movements such as Affirmative Repositioning, often seen as precursor for potential social conflict. Yet, informality of housing and living is a daily reality for many people in Namibia. In as much as precariousness and uncertainties increasingly define informal life-worlds, sustenance of livelihoods of the vulnerable people in society is realised through informality in its different manifestations.This paper focuses on youth experiences in the labor market and the changing meaning of work. It centres on the income generating activities within the informal sector, through which youth’s attempts to cope with being unable to find formal employment. It argues that work has undergone change, producing new varied spatial and temporal forms that both undermine and increase young people’s autonomy and freedom. It concludes by arguing that informality is not a negative social process. It is the unguided way society allows it to happen that produces inequitable results. As such informality individualizes the workforce, making the representation of labor rights difficult. Marginalisation and exclusion of those in informal employment is no longer tenable and the pervasive importance of informal activities should be recognized as essential in shaping the boundaries and meaning of work.