Perceptions of informal safety nets: a case study from a South African informal settlement
Arnall, A., Furtado, J., Ghazoul, J. and de Swardt, C. (2004) Perceptions of informal safety nets: a case study from a South African informal settlement. Development Southern Africa, 21 (3). pp. 443-460. ISSN 1470-3637
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To link to this article DOI: 10.1080/0376835042000265432
The relevance and importance of informal safety nets that buffer poor households from livelihood hardships have been given little attention in South Africa’s development programmes to date. This article contributes to the understanding of informal safety nets by investigating local perceptions in a South African informal settlement. The main findings of the study are that families perform an important safety net function, but that these sources of assistance can be susceptible to social isolation. Immediate neighbours and friends also play an important safety net role, but these reciprocal-based sources of assistance may be difficult to secure. Community-wide threats can have a severe impact on people’s ability to engage in safety net transfers. Many of these difficulties stem from South Africa’s structural unemployment crisis. This factor is the greatest danger to the future of the informal safety net system in the informal settlement.