Globalisation and poverty: Impacts on households of employment and restructuring in the Textiles industry of South Africa

Andries Bezuidenhout, Grace Khunou, Sarah Mosoetsa, Kirsten Sutherland, John Thoburn

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12 Citations (Scopus)


This paper addresses an important but often neglected theme in debates on globalisation - the consequences for workers of engagement in global markets, particularly for those workers who are retrenched in the process. Using the South African textiles industry as a case study, the paper investigates the impact on workers' household livelihoods of industrial restructuring following trade liberalisation in the 1990s. Interviews with textile workers and retrenched textile workers were conducted in five locations in three provinces - the Western Cape, the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal - in order to capture different local dynamics. Workers employed in textiles generally enjoy a relatively stable formal sector wage, which, though less than the manufacturing average, is well above the national poverty line. However, the benefits were not evenly spread between the regions and job insecurity has been increasing. Workers retrenched from textile employment have faced extreme difficulties in a country with exceptionally high levels of open unemployment, and many families have fallen into deep poverty, which may now be transmitted intergenerationally.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)545-565
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of International Development
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2007


  • Globalisation
  • Households
  • Poverty
  • South Africa
  • Textiles
  • Trade liberalisation

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