Reproductive Insecurity: Flailing Social Services and Labour Security Burdening Reproductive Networks.

Saturday, 21 July 2018: 10:45
Oral Presentation
Anne WILTSHIRE, Stellenbosch University, South Africa
Economic growth in South Africa has been accompanied by low employment growth, labour flexibilisation and a disproportionate increase in women’s labour force participation. This adversely affects the ‘double shift’ of lower income women. However, reproductive work is not an individual task, static nor gender or household bound. Rather, it occurs within metamorphosing networks.

Participants are farm workers, agents stratified by residential (on- and off-farms) and employment status (permanent, temporary and seasonal). The study is a longitudinal design of qualitative interviews spanning 1 year with 12 farm-working women, each being a single case of a reproductive network stratified by residency and employment.

Findings illustrate household fluidity and how reproductive work occurs across (geographically split) households within reproductive networks. Networks are bidirectional between adults-children and children-children and children are nodes of networks. Networks metamorphose spreading the burden of reproductive work, especially when primary carers enter paid work and in lieu of social services. However, to earn a living in the absence of family, friends, neighbours and other supervisory services, some children are left in inadequate care. Child neglect is attributed to the misalignment between the operating hours of workplaces and schools, as well as a lack of state investment in childcare services.

This study highlights how, firstly, households are interdependent on each other and institutions for reproductive work. Secondly how, in lieu of state investment, social services and training provided by employers can mitigate reproductive insecurity. This occurs within a state committed to economic redistribution via social grants rather than transformative redistribution with the expansion of social services which means that lower income households are not privy to privatised services, leaving the onus on horizontal networks to carry the burden of unpaid reproductive work.