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Informal Social Protection in Post-Apartheid Migrant Networks: Vulnerability, Social Networks and Reciprocal Exchange in the Eastern and Western Cape, South Africa


  • Andries du Toit
  • David Neves


This paper considers the dynamics of informal social protection in the context of chronic poverty and vulnerability in post-apartheid migrant networks. It argues that in poor and marginalised households in South Africa, the indirect impacts of social grants cannot be adequately understood by focusing simply on either individual or household decision making. Instead, the paper concentrates on the central role of the elaborate and spatially extended network of reciprocal exchange within the informal social protection systems. These networks link rural and urban households, and enable hybrid livelihood profiles to evolve that bridge rural and urban as well as formal and informal economic activities. These depend crucially on elaborate and gendered ‘care chains’ involving not only monetary remittances, but also paid and unpaid care work and household reproductive labour. The arrangements help the poor to survive, alleviate poverty and reduce vulnerability by allowing costs and resources, opportunities and shocks to be shared and redistributed. At the same time, these strategies have limitations, and are structured by deeply entrenched power relations pivoting on gender, age, status and other markers of exclusion. They may also increase the vulnerability of some individuals. This highlights the importance of the formal social protection system existing alongside the informal systems.

Suggested Citation

  • Andries du Toit & David Neves, 2009. "Informal Social Protection in Post-Apartheid Migrant Networks: Vulnerability, Social Networks and Reciprocal Exchange in the Eastern and Western Cape, South Africa," Global Development Institute Working Paper Series 7409, GDI, The University of Manchester.
  • Handle: RePEc:bwp:bwppap:7409

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    Cited by:

    1. Oludele Akinloye Akinboade & Segun Adeyemi Adeyefa, 2018. "An Analysis of Variance of Food Security by its Main Determinants Among the Urban Poor in the City of Tshwane, South Africa," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 137(1), pages 61-82, May.
    2. Simone Schotte, 2019. "Structural poverty dynamics in urban South Africa: A mixed-methods investigation," WIDER Working Paper Series wp-2019-100, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).

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