The manufacturing sector – once a major source of urban employment and consisting of a large percentage of skilled and semi-skilled, middle-income jobs – has declined, while the service sector – comprising predominantly either high-skill, high-pay or low-skill, low-pay jobs – has grown. Consequently, it has been argued, that the decline of manufacturing and the growth of the service sector are to result in a more polarised occupational structure. Growing numbers of low-wage, low-skill service sector jobs are also said to attract poorly educated, unskilled immigrants from rural areas and/or developing countries. The contention is that these migrants become trapped in the low-skill, low-wage service sector jobs, thereby exacerbating social polarisation. An alternative argument is that there is a trend towards professionalisation, with a general upgrading of skills among the employed workforce and a growth of non-manual clerical, sales, technical, professional and managerial jobs. Consequently, unskilled migrants experience a skills mismatch and are likely to be unemployed rather than employed in low-skilled jobs. Household survey and population census results for the Johannesburg region of South Africa from 1980 to 2007, were used to explore the relationship between migrants and social polarisation. The results show that migrants have a very similar occupation and education profile to natives and that their presence does not cause social polarisation but supports growing professionalisation instead.
Borel-Saladin, J. Social Polarisation and Migration to Johannesburg. Migrating out of Poverty RPC Working Paper 11. Migrating out of Poverty Consortium, University of Sussex, Brighton, UK (2013) 50 pp.