Handbook on In-Work Poverty
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Handbook on In-Work Poverty

Edited by Henning Lohmann and Ive Marx

There has been a rapid global expansion of academic and policy attention focusing on in-work poverty, acknowledging that across the world a large number of the poor are ‘working poor’. Taking a global and multi-disciplinary perspective, this Handbook provides a comprehensive overview of current research at the intersection between work and poverty.
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Chapter 23: In-work poverty in South Africa: the impact of income sharing in the presence of high unemployment

Kezia Lilenstein, Ingrid Woolard and Murray Leibbrandt


In South Africa, finding employment is generally regarded as the primary means of escaping poverty. However, the extent of income sharing, coupled with high incidence of low-wage work, may leave even those who find employment unable to ‘work themselves out’ of poverty at the household level. Yet, despite a proliferation of poverty studies, there has been little work focusing on poverty amongst employed South Africans. This chapter therefore provides a baseline descriptive analysis of the markers of poverty among the employed and their households. The authors find that in South Africa there are specific, historically disadvantaged groups which are most likely to suffer from in-work poverty. These include African and Coloured workers, females, those with low education levels, those living in rural areas and those in more temporary forms of employment. While both wages and household composition are important markers of in-work poverty, the risk of poverty is greatest when these two markers intersect, with even ‘high’-wage workers at high risk of poverty if they live in households where their income is shared with many non-working household members.

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