WP09/2013

Estimating the benefits of linking ties in a deeply divided society: considering the relationship between domestic workers and their employers in South Africa

Stellenbosch Working Paper Series No. WP18/2013

Author(s): Ronelle Burger, Marisa Coetzee, Carina van der Watt

JEL Classification: Z13, Z10, D63

Keywords: Social capital, social networks, domestic workers, inequality, South Africa

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Abstract:

In South Africa social exclusion remains a problem due to the multiple and overlapping divisions in post-apartheid society and the lack of linking ties bridging the worlds of those who have plenty and those without. To quantify the potential benefit of such linking ties for socio-economic mobility, we examine the relationship between domestic workers and their employers – a case where we find frequent, proximate and intimate contact between individuals from these two different worlds. We construct a well matched comparison group for domestic workers via propensity score matching using a pooled version of seven General Household Surveys. The households of domestic workers appear to have lower unemployment duration and better quality jobs, a higher likelihood of owning assets and a lower prevalence of child and adult hunger. These differences provide evidence that the linking ties of domestic workers with their more affluent employers increase well-being in a way that is consistent with social network theory.