Rural-urban migration and the homeland policy in South Africa
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The movement of workers from the rural to the urban sector has been and continues to be an integral part of economic development. The phenomenon is neither avoidable nor completely preventable. Attempts to explain it have thus been concerned largely with the rate of movement of rural workers to the urban sector and the resultant urban unemployment. The major cause of rural to urban migration is economic. Essentially, this includes calculations about actual or expected incomes and the existence of differences in employment opportunities between the rural and the urban sectors. Workers will normally migrate to a sector if that sector offers more job opportunities and higher average wages. However, some workers may be attracted to the urban sector by better welfare and social facilities but these alone can not account for a significant volume of rural to urban migration. In South Africa, Black workers, as elsewhere, respond to differences in employment opportunities and average wages between sectors by moving to the sector which offers more. However, the homeland policy controls and regulates the movement, settlement and employment of African labor particularly in the White controlled economy (urban sector). The policy seeks to ultimately reduce the African population in the White controlled economy and at the same time to develop the homelands so that a larger number of Black workers would be employed in the homelands or in border areas. Because of the controls in the urban sector, the urban Black labor force has remained largely unstabilized and resulted in a migrant labor system. Attempts to develop the homelands have not made much headway. Since the 1930's their capacity to support their populations has been deteriorating. Often maize and sorghum (staple foods) have to be imported to supplement the little that is produced locally. Rapid population growth and widespread removal of Black workers from the White controlled economy to the homelands in the 1960's created a serious problem of overcrowdedness in the homelands. Population density in these areas is among the highest in Africa. The homeland modern sector is still in its infancy and can only create a small number of jobs in a year. The majority of the economically active African workers continue to seek employment in the White controlled economy. The homeland policy has thus not succeeded yet in its objective. What it has succeeded in doing instead is to concentrate the dependents of urban Black workers in the homelands thereby shifting responsibility to them for providing the workers and their dependents with social services. The homelands remain poor, underdeveloped and cheap reserves of African labor for the White controlled economy.
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