Employed yet poor: Low-wage employment and working poverty in South Africa
Feder, Jade Kimlyn
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Whilst paid employment has generally been considered as the predominant means of avoiding poor living standards, the past two decades has seen a rise in the complex phenomenon of employed poverty worldwide (Eardley, 1998; Nolan and Marx, 1999; Nolan et al., 2010; Cheung and Chou, 2015). Over time, low-wage employment has increased in both number and severity, resulting in or contributing significantly to household poverty (Nolan and Marx, 1999). While individuals are employed in paid work, salaries are too low for households to maintain “a reasonable standard of living” (Cheung and Chou, 2015 p. 318). Internationally, employed poverty has been a serious and well-researched problem in the United States of America (USA or US). More than 11% of the USA “population resided in poor households with at least one employed person” (Brady et al., 2010 p. 560). In Hong Kong, approximately 53.5% of the population living in poverty were working poor in 2012 (Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, 2013). Closer to home, Sub- Saharan Africa’s working poor rate for 2016 was estimated at 33.1% for workers earning less than US $1.90 per day and 30% for those earning between US $1.90 and $3.10 per day (International Labour Organisation, 2016).