Locational Characteristics and Employment Accessibility

Get Complete Project Material File(s) Now! »



This chapter reviews the process of urban unemployment in Johannesburg as a result of characteristics such as uneven development, urbanisation and urban population growth. It briefly reviews some theories related to the urban transition, such as Modernisation or Neo-classical theory, Dependency or Radical theory, and the Urban-bias argument. Concluding that these theories are not mutually exclusive but rather complementary approaches, the chapter brings them to bear upon two major urban issues: rural-urban migration and the urban labour market. For each of these issues, the chapter presents the past and current trends and identifies the gaps in the theoretical understanding of these phenomena.


Johannesburg (“iGoli”, City of Gold, etc.) is about to become one of the world’s largest cities, with populations close to four million20. According to Tomlinson (2003:17), the Johannesburg’s population would be much higher than the existing figure in the absence of HIV/AIDS, particularly the African population. However, the United Nations (1991:1) estimated that eighteen of the world’s 21 largest urban agglomerations, with populations exceeding ten million, would be in the Third World by the 21st century; and more than two billion people will live in urban areas in the Third World. They will constitute 70 percent of the world’s urban population. The Third World will be well along the path of the urban transition: 45 percent of the population of the Third World will be urban (United Nations, 1991:2).
Comparably, the rate of urbanisation of the Third World, i.e., the increase in the proportion living in urban areas, was similar between 1950 and 1975 to the rate that characterised the urban transition in Europe 75 years earlier. Preston (1998:198) argued that the rates of urban growth rates are exceptionally high in the Third World, because of the shift in population from rural to urban areas, but not because of the natural growth of populations.
Theoretical approaches to Third World urbanisation have gone through dramatic transformations over the past 45 years. Modernisation or Neo-classical theory was grounded in the experience of the First World, or rather in a sanitised version of that experience, and offered a rather benign perspective on the future of the Third World. It was swept aside by Radical or Dependency theory, which focused on the interaction between the First and the Third Worlds, holding out little hope for the Third World while pointing an accusatory finger at the First, and having a hard time making up its mind about the Second, i.e., Soviet Union and Eastern Europe (Gugler, 1993:17). A perspective focused on Third World countries finally came to the fore at the end of the 1970s. Michael Lipton’s ‘Why Poor People Stay Poor’ established the urban-bias argument in 1977.
However, each of these approaches reviewed below, claimed exclusive rights to the explanation of past, present and future urban development in the Third World. And each in turn was remarkably successful in establishing hegemony for at least a decade. There were notable differences, though; in the areas of discourse they came to dominate. Nevertheless, their lessons provide an opportunity for South Africa, Johannesburg in particular, to produce an appropriate model capable of addressing the urban problems at hand.


In this section the research shall consider the outlines of two theoretical approaches on migration studies, namely, Modernisation or Neo-classical theory, on the one hand, and Radical or Dependency theory, on the other. Although these theories are diametrically opposed in many fundamental aspects of their approach to rural-urban migration, this research shall take the position that it is crucial to combine them, at a logical level, in order to construct coherent model.
Furthermore, it is fundamental to this approach that ideological bias is inherent in theorising activities. It is not possible to construct value-free or objective theory. While these considerations might obstruct theoretical debate between followers of conflicting theories, it must be noted that this is not the final result. On contrary, such is the volume of debate across theoretical boundaries and of mutually exchanged research data that it is incumbent on policy makers today to be at least competent in more than one theoretical field.
The most clear-cut boundary between the two theoretical streams is that of inequality. This refers to the inequality of access to material and non-material scarce resources at both national and international levels, and in both spatial and intergroup dimensions (Fair, 1982:2). Modernisation theory predicts that the path of development for any country will take it to a situation of relative equality in the distribution of wealth following a period of inequality. Radical theory, by contrast, foresees that inequality will be maintained or will increase over time. It also argues that persistent inequality is necessary for the growth of a capitalist economy.
The problem with the above scenario is that development does not always trickle down to reach the majority of people who live in poverty. For example, South Africa is now an upper-middle-income country with a per capita income similar to that of Botswana, Malaysia or Brazil (Nemavhandu, 1998:7). Despite this wealth, the majority of Africans experience either outright poverty or are vulnerable to become poor. In addition, the distribution of economic resources in South Africa may be the most unequal in the world.
Despite significant progress that has been made to empower the previously disadvantaged people over the past twelve years, many Africans still have no access to quality employment and generally unable to command sufficient resources to satisfy a socially acceptable minimum standard of living while a minority enjoys extreme prosperity.

Neo-classical Theory to Migration

The Neo-classical approach to migration holds on six basic principles developed by Fair (1982:11), all of which are challenged by the Radical theory. It would be seen hereunder that these principles are subjective to radical criticisms when applied in relation to the Johannesburg urban scenarios.

  • It argues that migration is a rational response to prevailing socio-economic conditions and that there is a parallel assumption of the existence of reasonable knowledge of alternative conditions;
  • That socio-economic development in any context follows a relatively inevitable path or progression and that the broad features of the progression repeat themselves internationally;
  • That within any developing country, there is a dualistic model;
  • That the direction of the progression or path of development is towards equilibrium in the price of factors of production and in living standards;
  • Consequently, that migration is a self-correcting or self-balancing process; and
  • Lastly, that valid theory may be developed to predict levels and rates of migration. This has made Neo-classical theories very popular with policy-makers.

Neo-classical migration theories may be sub-classified into three models. In the following section, the research will explore each of these models.

1) The Demographic Model

This model of rural-urban migration, as expounded by Zelinsky (1971:16), starts from the elementary assumptions that rural populations grow faster than urban ones in Third World countries, and that this imbalance is corrected by migration. Urban areas absorb the surplus population of rural areas.
Zelinsky (1971:17) further argued that urbanisation is an important factor in the transition in Third World countries from high to low population growth rates. More specifically, population growth, according to Zelinsky (1971:17), goes through four transitional stages, each linked to a stage of economic development:

  • Traditional peasant agrarian economies: high fertility is matched by high mortality, and population growth rates are very low;
  • Youthful expanding stage: characterised by economic diversification, labour specialisation, rising productivity and high migration rates, constant fertility rates and falling mortality rates results in high population growth rates;
  • Late expanding stage: fertility rates begin to drop, bringing down population growth rates; and
  • Advanced industrial stage: fertility rates drop sufficiently for population growth to become almost static.

In South Africa or Johannesburg in particular, this model can be criticised on many grounds. Firstly, the model lacks credit by assuming that within any developing country, there is a dualistic model. This approach ignores the impact of social, economic, political and historical factors within each developing country. In Johannesburg, it was not until 1870s, with the discovery of diamonds and gold that resulted in an acceleration of the migration process21 The historical development of migration in Johannesburg is long and manifold with origins in colonialism through internal slave trade and latter reinforced by apartheid through divide and rule laws. In short, Johannesburg has always been a source of innovation and economic activities but the fruits of this economic development have not, as yet, trickled down to benefit the less developed (poor) peripheries or rural counterparts.
The model again lacks credit in that it assumes that urban population growth rates are always lower than rural ones and that migration is a self-correcting or self-balancing process. Mostert (1985:12) argued that it is not migration as such which affects fertility and mortality rates as much as access to education, employment and family planning programmes, particularly among women.
In relation to Johannesburg situation, differential population growth rates are not the most significant factor in rural-urban migration. Economic and political factors have far greater consequence for levels and rates of migration22. This is not to deny that population size and density do have some impact on these economic and political factors and that population growth rates must therefore be accorded some level of significance in explaining rural-urban migration.
Nevertheless, this model by Zelinsky cannot be dismissed out of hand, but it has secondary value in explaining various levels of migration. The Zelinsky model can also serve as a safeguard approach against future policy developments aimed at addressing this peculiar predicament of rural-urban migration in South Africa.

2) Motivational Migration Model

This model starts by analysing the factors behind individual decision-making processes among actual and potential migrants. It examines the considerations which ‘push’ migrants away from rural areas and ‘pull’ them towards urban areas.
Underlying these motivational factors lie the Neo-classical assumptions concerning the impact of supply and demand. Given the unequal spatial distribution of production factors – land, capital and labour, the ‘market’ responds by allocating differential prices to these factors according to their relative scarcity. Dewar (1982:8) argued that:
an oversupply of labour would mean low, and a shortage high, returns to labour. It is further postulated that factors of production will move spatially from areas of low to high return. Thus labour will move from a region where it is abundant and capital scarce, to one where labour is scarce and capital abundant. Capital is seen to move in a similar way.
The result is a movement of production factors and a tendency towards equilibrium in distribution and prices. An early example of such model is Arthur Lewis’ dual economy theory. In this theory the modern, urban cash sector of a typical Third World economy gradually absorbs surplus labour from the rural subsistence sector (Lewis, 1954:140).
Dewar (1982:9) indicated that out of these earlier models have grown more sophisticated ones as expounded by Mitchell (1959:12-46) and Wilson (1972a: 120-3; 1972b: 144-168) based on the “interaction of four primary pressures, one of which to attract (or pull) migrants to cities, the second of which acts to push labour off the land, the third to draw migrants back to the land, and the fourth, actively to push them out of urban areas”.
The impact of employment and residence in urban areas is that individual productivity and incomes are raised. The resulting rise in expenditure increases demand for non-food commodities (i.e. manufacturing). Since the production of non-food is a pre-eminently urban activity, the result is to stimulate labour demand in urban areas.

1.1 Background Setting
1.2 Problem Setting
1.3 Problem Statement
1.4 Research Goals
1.5 Research Methods
1.6 Theoretical Base
2.1 Introduction
2.2 Historical Context
2.3 Internal Structure of Johannesburg
2.4 Physical Characteristics of the Apartheid City
2.5 Divided Apartheid Tax Base for Johannesburg
2.6 Labour Demand and Regulations in the 1950s
2.7 Emergence of Urban Unemployment prior to 1994
2.8 Trends in Johannesburg
2.9 Continuing Social and Economic Differentiation in the City
2.10 International Parallels
3.1 Introduction
3.2 Background Setting
3.3 Rural – Urban Migration
3.4 Theories of Uneven Development
3.5 Urban Theory
3.6 Provisional Model for Explaining Uneven Development and Urban Unemployment in Johannesburg
4.1 Introduction
4.2 Urban Bias
4.3 Rural-Urban Migration in Johannesburg
4.4 Uneven Development in Johannesburg
4.5 Urban Unemployment in Johannesburg
4.6 Locational Characteristics and Employment Accessibility
4.7 Emerging Trends in Johannesburg
4.8 Addressing Uneven Development in Johannesburg
5.1 Introduction
5.2 Urban Bias in Johannesburg
5.3 Rural-Urban Migration in Johannesburg
5.4 Uneven Development in Johannesburg
5.5 Urban Unemployment in Johannesburg
5.6 Lessons from the Post-Apartheid Johannesburg
5.7 Concluding Remarks
6.1 Outcomes of the Study
6.2 Challenges Regarding Developmental Strategies
6.3 Recommended Interventions

Related Posts