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CASUALIZATION OF WORK IN CONSTRUCTION AND THE PLIGHT OF WORKERS IN BLOEMFONTEIN

Abstract and Figures

Casualization in the construction industry is influenced by unemployment or lack of decent jobs. Casualization is described as the process of employing people either on a daily, weekly or monthly basis for an undefined task or specified job without issuing a permanent contract. The study explored the motives why unemployed people are choosing casualization and the challenges they face in the construction industry. The qualitative research approach was used in the study to answer: " What does it mean to be a casual construction worker in Bloemfontein? ". In-depth interviews were used to collect the data. The findings show that unemployed people are choosing to become casual workers because they are failing to get permanent jobs from the private and public sector due to lack of requisite education and training. The results further show that casual workers are victims of exploitation through payment problems. Also, clients are failing to provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for casual workers. Therefore, the Department of Labour in South Africa must start to tackle casualisation and compel people who are using casual workers to pay them standard hourly rates (wages) and provide safety protections for them
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Mollo LG and Emuze F., (2017). Casualization of Work in Construction and the Plight of Workers in
Bloemfontein. In: Proceeding of Joint CIB W099 and TG59 International Safety, Health, and People in
Construction Conference. Cape Town, South Africa, pp 177-184. ISBN: 978-1-920508-78-4.
lmollo@cut.ac.za
CASUALIZATION OF WORK IN CONSTRUCTION AND THE
PLIGHT OF WORKERS IN BLOEMFONTEIN
Lesiba George Mollo1 and Fidelis Emuze2
Department of Built Environment, Central University of Technology, Free State, South Africa
Casualization in the construction industry is influenced by unemployment or lack of decent jobs.
Casualization is described as the process of employing people either on a daily, weekly or monthly
basis for an undefined task or specified job without issuing a permanent contract. The study
explored the motives why unemployed people are choosing casualization and the challenges they
face in the construction industry. The qualitative research approach was used in the study to
answer: What does it mean to be a casual construction worker in Bloemfontein?”. In-depth
interviews were used to collect the data. The findings show that unemployed people are choosing
to become casual workers because they are failing to get permanent jobs from the private and
public sector due to lack of requisite education and training. The results further show that casual
workers are victims of exploitation through payment problems. Also, clients are failing to provide
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for casual workers. Therefore, the Department of Labour in
South Africa must start to tackle casualisation and compel people who are using casual workers to
pay them standard hourly rates (wages) and provide safety protections for them
Keywords: Casual Worker, Construction, Decent Job, Unemployment, Well-being
INTRODUCTION
Most unemployed people struggling to get decent job choose to fight poverty and inequality by
becoming a casual construction worker. Amidala (2011) described casualization as a method of
employing people without issuing a permanent contract public, private and shady informal
sectors. Casualization in South African labor market dated from the period of apartheid where
racial policies were designed to deliver secondary education and job market opportunity for non-
white individuals in South Africa (Lilienstein, Woodard, Leibbrandt, 2016). Lack of decent job
opportunities for uneducated and educated people in South Africa makes it one of the unequal
societies producing high levels of poverty. Although there has been a slight change of the
poverty headcount ratio between 1993 and 2010, falling from 56% to 54% over the period
(Lilienstein et al., 2016), the rate of casualisation is still high because of the significant number
of unemployed youths in South Africa.
Casualization is adopted in the industries where demands for employment is highly variable and
where entrepreneurs are avoiding to employ people in a permanent position in construction work,
port work, migratory farm labor and other jobs which require manual labor or unskilled workers
(Amidala, 2011). Most contractors have adopted the method of employing general workers
through casualization in South Africa with the aim of maximizing profit while keeping up with
the competition through cheap labor (Okafor, 2007). People in developing countries are the
victim of labor exploitation evident in a bad salary, wages and salary arrears system, poor
motivation, and every other vice that negate the intentions of decent jobs (Amidala, 2011). This
study is driven by the reason that casualization keeps on growing as the dilemma and little is
done to eradicate it in the South African construction industry, despite the existence of
institutions such as the Department of Labour in South Africa that governs the labor practice
through constituted Employment Acts.
CASUALIZATION AND ITS ILLS
Casual workers can be defined as the procedure of employing people without a clear written
contract, which is commonly designed for a short period or the contract duration is not issued by
the employer at all (Fapohunda, 2012). Amidala (2011) stated that casualization is the process,
which is adopted by most construction entrepreneurs to make work less secure by employing
people as a freelance and on an occasional basis or short term contract instead of being offered
either a fixed term contract or a permanent contract. However, Fapohunda (2012) cited Okafor
(2007) that construction casual workers are often a victim of loss which include: absence of
medical care allowance, no job security or promotion at work, no gratuity and other severance
benefits, no leave or leave allowance, freedom of association which is often jeopardized, no
death benefits or accident insurance at work, no negotiation or collective bargaining agreement.
Casualization, which should be a concern of the Labour Department in South Africa, may have
been influenced by the outcomes of opening the economy to external forces on free market
principles, which may have produced continuing influence on the nature of labor utilization
(Anugwom, 2007). Most construction entrepreneurs have got into understanding that the
construction industry is driven by unskilled labor under the supervision of either the foreman or
site manager, and are manipulating the labor employment regulations by minimizing the labor
cost through socialization (Anugwom, 2007). The construction industry has adopted strategies of
socialization to align with economic restructuring that favors limited overhead cost by
companies. Beside the designed strategies, policies and regulations to protect casual workers are
either lacking or poorly implemented to the extent that casual workers are manipulated and
cheated in the construction industry through reduced salary, wage and poor health and safety
service provided to them (Okoye, Okolie, and Aderibigbe, 2014). Casualization in developing
country such as South Africa is commonly practiced in cities because most people are migrating
from rural areas to urban cities to seek decent jobs and fail to do so forces them to become casual
workers (Yen, Platt, Yeoh, and Lam, 2015).
METHODOLOGY
The qualitative research approach was adopted for this study with the purpose of collecting the
study data and developing the casual workers model for this exploratory study. The qualitative
research approach was adopted as recommended by Tracy (2013), that it is useful for
understanding a range of social issues such as the behaviour or the reason for being a casual
worker in Bloemfontein. Yin (2011) described qualitative research as the process of collecting
the research data while embracing a mixture of orientations as well as methodological
consideration through the possible multiplicity of interpretations of human events; the inherent
uniqueness of these events; and the methodological variations available.
The researchers used in-depth face-to-face interviews to interrogate the research question
mentioned in the abstract. Semi-structured interviews thus facilitated the collection of data from
respondents as termed by Ritchie, Lewis, Nicholls, and Ormston (2014). The interview protocol
Mollo LG and Emuze F., (2017). Casualization of Work in Construction and the Plight of Workers in
Bloemfontein. In: Proceeding of Joint CIB W099 and TG59 International Safety, Health, and People in
Construction Conference. Cape Town, South Africa, pp 177-184. ISBN: 978-1-920508-78-4.
lmollo@cut.ac.za
contains open-ended questions. The sampling technique was non-probability sample due to the
reason that the study was not statistical. The researcher adopted purposive sample to
appropriately select the interviewed participants as Ritchie et al., (2014) stated that the
participants are chosen with a ‘purpose' to signify a type in relation to the criteria. The sample
size of this study was made up to 18 participants, and the majority of them were aged between 25
and 35 years old. This study was conducted between December 2016 and January 2017. The
interviews were recorded using cell phones, and later the researcher transcribed the data in the
field book. The data collected were analysed by focussing on the central research questions and
eliminating responses, which did not answer the research questions. The selection of the
participants was unstructured, and the participants were chosen from the side of the streets where
they stay daily to market their availability for casual work. The study, therefore, interviewed
only people that are involved in casual work in Bloemfontein, South Africa. All the interviewees
are not educated, meaning they did not complete their basic education (Grade 12).
FINDINGS, ANALYSIS, AND DISCUSSION
The main research questions guided the researchers to interview the participants and to analyse
the interviewed data. The demographic information obtained shows that 72% (13 out of 18) of
the participants interviewed were the youth aged between 25 and 35 years old, while 28% (5 out
of 18) of the participants were the older men, aged between 45 to 50 years old. The race of the
participants was black, and there were no female participants, and it was discovered that black
males are the one choosing to become casual workers in Bloemfontein. The research question
was answered through the following subheadings, which lead to the development of the casual
worker’s frame model.
Meaning of Being a Causal Worker in Bloemfontein
Definition of casual worker
Most participants described casualization as the procedures adopted by unemployed people,
whereby they are standing by the side of the road close to the traffic robots in the town to seek
employment in construction by renovating existing houses, building houses, and cleaning the
yard, ‘hard manual labour jobs’ and are employed without a contract, they are accepting any
amount offered to them by their employers.
Reason for becoming a casual worker
The majority of the participants explained that their reasons to become casual workers are
influenced by the fact that they are struggling to get employment in the private and public sectors
because of their educational background since they did not complete their primary education
(high school). One of the participants explained that his parents passed away while he was still a
teenager and he never had anyone to encourage him to go to school and he chooses to become
casual worker rather than become a thief. Another participant explained that they grew up
working in the manufacturing industries in the townships of Bloemfontein. However, when
economic recession began and the firms embarked upon mass layoff, he was affected. In other
words, lay off influenced the decisions to become casual workers where manual physical work
can be undertaken because of lack of education.
Challenges experienced by casual workers
Most participants clarified the problems they encounter as casual workers. The main problem is
poor or late payments of wages since the majority of their employers fail to fulfil their promises
relating to the agreed payments. For example, one of the participants explained that:
“One of their clients once took them to renovate his house, painting and to install new
tiles, after they completed the work he paid them half of the agreed payment and
promised to pay them the rest of the money in town and when they arrived in the town, he
instructed them to wait for him as he was going to withdraw money from the ATM
'Automated Teller Machine' and that was the last time they saw him, as he drove away
without saying any word."
The participants explained that they experience oppressors (bullies) among their employers.
They say some employers force them to work overtime by threatening not to pay them if they are
not cooperating with their instruction and are also refusing to take them back to the town.
Another challenge, which the participants highlighted relates to the lack of employment, and
they explained that they often take a month without getting any work, especially during winter
season.
Getting employment
All the participants explained that they walk to the town early in the morning and stand by the
side of the road, close to the traffic robots (lights) where people who need assistance relating to
construction works and garden works will stop their car, and they will run into them to discuss
the job descriptions and their wage for the job. Other participants explained that they had placed
the advertisement board around the street light pole in town relating to their skills and they often
get calls from clients looking for their services (see Figure 1).
Figure 1: Casual Workers Advertisement Board
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and site induction
The majority of the participants explained that their employer does not provide personal
protective equipment (PPE) for them. When an employer provides PPE for them, the employer
will usually deduct the cost of their wages. Another participant explained that employers do not
care about their health. The notion that employers only care about the production was emphatic.
Mollo LG and Emuze F., (2017). Casualization of Work in Construction and the Plight of Workers in
Bloemfontein. In: Proceeding of Joint CIB W099 and TG59 International Safety, Health, and People in
Construction Conference. Cape Town, South Africa, pp 177-184. ISBN: 978-1-920508-78-4.
lmollo@cut.ac.za
The participant explained that they are exposed to diseases while they are doing paint work. For
example:
‘When you paint a house without wearing a dusk mask, your breath the paint you're
exposed to diseases relating to lung problems, you struggle to breathe, and you get a
headache.'
The same interviewee reports that when they are installing tiles, they prefer to wear knee cap
because they spend the whole day on their knees installing the tiles.
The issue of site induction, the participant’s response is as follows:
‘In 2016, I was taken to a construction site in Kimberly to work for three days, and I
never heard of the word site induction, what is site induction and how does it help me.’
‘There is no site induction taking place because most of the time we carry out small jobs
which are straight forward without complications.’
‘Medium contractors are the one stressing the subject of site induction, while small
contractors don’t even talk about it.’
The textual data and the literature reviewed show that there are links between the factors that are
pervasive regarding casualization in the construction industry. Figure 2 is an attempt to bring the
identified factors together. The figure shows that casualization can be linked to severe economic
challenges in the form of poor job opportunities, failure to have large scale permanent
employment in the industry, inability to standardize and police earnings in the industry, and the
collapse of production entities where mass employment can be found in manufacturing. There
are also regulatory factors to be considered. Such factors are not unconnected to poor social
protection for casual workers and poor enforcement of labor laws in the industry.
1. Social Challenge
Factors
1.1 Family
Misfortunes
Family
Abuse Parents
Divorce
1.2 Educational
Misfortunes
Poor
Educational
System
Incompetent
Teacher
1.3 Communality
Misfortunes
Peer
Pressure Public
Criticism
Death of
Parents
2.1 Poor
Job
Opportunity 2.2 Failure to
Produce
Permanent Jobs
2.3 Failure to
Standardize
Salary or Wages
2.4 Collapse
of
Manufacturin
g Industries
3. Regulation
Factors
3.1 Failure to
protect casual
workers
3.3. Failure of
companies to
comply with
labour
employment act
3.2.
Manipulation of
Local Business
2. Economical
Challenge Factors
Casualization Grounds
Figure 2: Casual Worker Frame Model
The social challenges to be overcome by people involved in casualization tend to worsen the
situation. For instance, it’s hard for someone with a complete lack of education and training to
exit the general labour levels in the construction industry. Such individuals without
apprenticeship will be largish at the bottom of the food chain in the industry. Figure 2 shows
more factors that the society should understand and address if casualization must be reduced in
the sector.
DISCUSSIONS
Figure 2 shows the casual workers model, which highlights the factors influencing society,
especially the youth in choosing to become a casual worker in the construction industry. These
factors were identified and grouped based on highlighted characteristics as follows: social
challenge factor, economic challenge factor, and regulatory factor. The social problem factors
involve the social life style of the society, the social circumstance which influences the
unemployed people in choosing to become a casual worker. The results show that unemployed
Mollo LG and Emuze F., (2017). Casualization of Work in Construction and the Plight of Workers in
Bloemfontein. In: Proceeding of Joint CIB W099 and TG59 International Safety, Health, and People in
Construction Conference. Cape Town, South Africa, pp 177-184. ISBN: 978-1-920508-78-4.
lmollo@cut.ac.za
people choosing to become casual workers are often a victim of family, educational and
community calamities. The economic challenge factor is characterized by the state of a country
concerning the production and consumption of goods and service. The economic problem factors
include poor job opportunity, failure to produce permanent jobs, inability to standardize and
policy earnings (wages) in the industry, and the decline of manufacturing industries. The
manufacturing sector in South Africa is declining as Mavuso (2014) outlined the statement. The
Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) in 2013 reported that while the manufacturing
industries accounted for 20.9% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of South Africa
in 1994, its contribution has since declined to around 12% (Mavuso, 2014). The economic
challenge factor is very critical as Fapohunda (2012) asserted that the methods of employing
construction workers through casualization in developing countries are a threat to the desired
level of economic growth and development of a country. The regulatory factors highlight the
concept of the management of employment act. The regulatory factors relate to failure to protect
casual workers, manipulation of local business, and non-compliance of firms to labor laws. The
non-compliance is most worrying as in South Africa; casual employees' rights are like the rights
of permanent employees if they work more than 24 hours in a month. Every employer must
regulate the working time of each employee:
"Following the provision of any Act governing occupational health and safety,
with due regard to the health and safety of employees,
About the code of good practice on the regulation of working time issued under section 87
(1) (a); and
the code of good conduct issued by the Minister of Labour under section 87 (1) (a) will
contain provisions concerning the arrangement of work and in particular, its impact on the
health, safety, and welfare of employees" (Department of Labour, 2004).
CONCLUSIONS
An exploratory study on the behaviour and characteristics of the casual workers is the focus of
this paper. As the number of casual workers increases and companies (private and public) fail to
produce permanent roles for uneducated people in South Africa, the ills of casualization may
never leave the society. The data collected in this study reinforce the perception that
casualization is a negation of decent jobs. The construction industry in South Africa appear to
have stagnated in recent years and growth is not predicted for the near future. This blink situation
contributes to the increase in the population of the casual construction worker in South Africa.
The motive why unemployed people are choosing to become casual workers is detailed in the
casual worker’s frame model. The frame model discusses issues found in social, economic and
regulatory problems. Social challenges highlight difficulties from family, educational, and
community problems. Economic problems highlight casual worker's difficulties due to poor job
opportunities, lack of adequate permanent employment, failure to standardize and police
earnings in the industry, and the collapse of manufacturing industry in Bloemfontein. The study
presented here is not exhaustive. The subject of the casual worker must be investigated on a
longer period to understand the motive why unemployed people are becoming casual workers
while improving the casual worker's frame model.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
The authors would like to thank Koketso Sekiba and the participants for contributing to this
work.
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Article
Full-text available
The need to align with the prevailing economic restructuring has made the construction industry to adopt a number of strategies including the use of casual workers for all its operations. The fact that these strategies have not significantly improved the safety status of the industry calls for investigation into the employment system of the industry. This study therefore examined the relationship between casual employment and safety behaviors of construction workers in South East, Nigeria. The study provided an insight into the spate of use of casual workers in construction industry and its attendant consequences in areas of health and safety. It employed survey research method where a questionnaire was structured and randomly distributed to a total of 1200 respondents who were construction site operatives in almost all trades in the industry. Data obtained were presented and analyzed using tables, simple percentages, mean score index and standard deviation. Pearson product moment correlation and t-test statistics were used to ascertain the correlation and its statistical significance between casualization and workers safety behaviours respectively. The result revealed that a very high negative correlation (r=-0.88) that is statistically significant exist between casualization and safety behaviours of construction workers. The result also noted the negative effects of casualization which among others is responsible for workers unsafe behaviours and subsequent increase in chances of accident on site. It however, recommended a holistic review of existing labour laws that will incorporate " labour loading " as it' s being practiced in New Zealand as well as integrating casual workers into the mainstreams of construction industry safety programmes. This will help to minimize arbitrary use of casual workers and rate of unsafe behaviours by the workers.
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Casualization and Labour Utilization in Nigeria Amended Basic Conditions of Employment Act. Pretoria: The South African Department of Labour. Retrieved from http://www.labour.gov Employment Casualization and Degradation of Work in Nigeria: Centre for Promoting Ideas
  • R Amidala
Amidala, R., (2011). Casualization and Labour Utilization in Nigeria. Osogbo, Nigeria Department of Labour. (2004). Amended Basic Conditions of Employment Act. Pretoria: The South African Department of Labour. Retrieved from http://www.labour.gov.za Fapohunda, T. M. (2012). Employment Casualization and Degradation of Work in Nigeria: Centre for Promoting Ideas, USA. International Journal of Business and Social Science, 3, (9), 257-267
In-Work Poverty in South Africa: The Impact of Income Sharing in the Presence of High Unemployment. A Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit Working
  • K Lilienstein
  • I Woodard
  • M Leibbrandt
Lilienstein, K., Woodard, I., Leibbrandt, M. (2016). In-Work Poverty in South Africa: The Impact of Income Sharing in the Presence of High Unemployment. A Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit Working, 193. Cape Town: SALDRU, University of Cape Town.
Can South Africa's manufacturing sector rise again? Johannesburg: Engineering News
  • Z Mavuso
Mavuso, Z. (2014). Can South Africa's manufacturing sector rise again? Johannesburg: Engineering News. Retrieved from http://www.engineeringnews.co.za/article/can¬south-africas¬manufacturing¬sector¬rise¬again¬2014¬10¬31.
Qualitative Research Methods: Collecting Evidence, Crafting Analysis, Communicating Impact
  • S J Tracy
Tracy, S.J., (2013). Qualitative Research Methods: Collecting Evidence, Crafting Analysis, Communicating Impact. Arizona: John Wiley & Son
Structural Conditions and Agency in Migrant Decision-Making: A case of Domestic and Construction Workers from Java
  • K C Yen
  • M Platt
  • B Yeoh
  • Sa
  • T Lam
Yen, K.C., Platt, M., Yeoh, B.SA., and Lam, T., (2015). Structural Conditions and Agency in Migrant Decision-Making: A case of Domestic and Construction Workers from Java, Indonesia. Sussex, United Kingdom
Qualitative Research from Start to Finish
  • K R Yin
Yin, K.R. (2011). Qualitative Research from Start to Finish. (9, Ed.) New York: The Guilford Press