The socio-economic coping and adaptation mechanisms employed by African migrant women in South Africa
The main aim of this study was to explore the socio-economic coping and adaptation mechanisms employed by African migrant women in South Africa. The conceptualisation of the social capital theory and its relationship with the six livelihood capitals drawn from the Sustainable Livelihood Framework and elaborated by the Community Capitals Framework formed the basis of the exploration of the multiple variables that African migrant women employed to devise coping and adaptation mechanisms in South Africa. A paralleled mixed method design was utilised in the study whereby both qualitative and quantitative methods of data collection were applied. The multiple stage sampling technique was employed for purposively selecting four out of the nine provinces in South Africa, namely Free State, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and Western Cape. The ballot selection of the metropolitan cities in the provinces, namely Bloemfontein (Free State), Johannesburg, Pretoria and Ekurhuleni (Gauteng), Durban (KwaZulu-Natal) and Cape Town (Western Cape) followed by the random sample selection of 332 African migrant women from 23 sub-Saharan countries. A semi-structured questionnaire was used to collect both qualitative and quantitative data that was done simultaneously with informal observations and interviews. The data included the demographic and socio-economic characteristics of the migrant women which were critical in exploring the coping and adaptation mechanisms they employed in South Africa. The migrant women’s initial and long-term survival mechanisms and the type of networks they had in the country were also explored in order to find out how these impacted on their coping and adaptation mechanisms. The livelihood capitals and the various identified livelihood capital factors were also evaluated, correlated, ranked and scored, using multi-attribute contingent ratings, Kendall’s coefficient of concordance and Pearson’s chi-square test to come up with the socio-economic coping mechanisms employed by the migrant women. The study explored the importance of the pre-migration, transition period and post-migration capacities, capabilities and livelihood capitals and factors possessed by migrant women in the host country. The demographic and socio-economic characteristics of the migrant women played a significant role in the coping and adaptation mechanisms employed by migrant women. The human, social, economic, physical, political and cultural capitals were the broad livelihood capitals of coping and adaptation. Being in the productive age group, possessing marriage, economic power, education potential, strong linguistic capabilities, especially English and local languages, residence statuses, entrepreneurial capabilities, and innovative aptitudes, made migrant women cope and adapt in South Africa. Support systems such as family and humanitarian support enabled the migrant women to cope and adapt on arrival in South Africa, and in the long term they utilised their employability prowess and enterprising abilities to adapt in the country. Strong networks and networking capabilities played a major role in their coping strategies. The utilisation of human, physical, cultural, social, economic and political livelihood capitals facilitated their coping and adaptation in South Africa the host country. The study recommended that the South African government needs to have a clear policy on the receipt, treatment and settlement of international migrants, especially African migrants, as reflected by the migrant women. There should be a clear policy that protects the local labour force from foreigners in order to prevent conflict. The documentation of the international migrants needs to be improved to be able to avoid conflict and reduce illegal migrants that are “perceived” to be also causing societal problems among communities. This could be done by introducing the latest technologies that are efficient, such as the biometric systems of identification. Refugees and asylum seekers need to be given the rights enshrined in the Geneva Conventions and, in turn, they also need to take responsibility that goes with the rights afforded them. The South African education system also needs to be aligned more to entrepreneurial skilling of locals so that they can compete with the migrants who do not rely on the state social security systems. Training, education and awareness campaigns need to be rolled out to grassroots level so that they understand the international migration and the benefits it brings to host countries. The government could clarify policies on businesses ownership, especially small businesses by foreigners to avoid conflict.
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