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These aren’t the jobs we want: youth unemployment and anti-work politics in Khayelitsha, Cape Town

Webb, Christopher (2021) These aren’t the jobs we want: youth unemployment and anti-work politics in Khayelitsha, Cape Town. Social Dynamics, 47 (3). 372 - 388. ISSN 0253-3952

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Identification Number: 10.1080/02533952.2021.1906148


Research on youth unemployment in South Africa has largely been dominated by quantitative accounts that highlight skills’ mismatches, educational levels and industrial transformations. Missing from these is a sense of how youth navigate labour markets and why they might choose to abandon the job search. Based on qualitative interviews with youth from an urban township, this article examines the obstacles they face searching for stable employment and their experiences of the labour market itself. It calls attention to two significant, and largely unexplored, issues affecting young people’s relationship to labour markets. First is the role of place-based identities and the stigmatisation associated with representations of place. Second is how low-wage, insecure work acts as a disincentive for remaining in the labour market. For many young people, wage work is rarely experienced as dignified or fulfiling, nor does it provide the resources required for transitions to adulthood. Building on Kathi Weeks’s concept of “anti-work politics,” it proposes improvements to the quality of existing work and the need to expand social protections to young people. It contributes to a broader geographical literature on labour market segmentation, by highlighting how cultural representations of place affect young people’s employment prospects and work identities.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2021 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.
Divisions: Anthropology
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Date Deposited: 11 Apr 2022 15:06
Last Modified: 25 Apr 2022 10:33

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