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Making a Living

SERI’s work on ‘Making a Living’ developed out of our focus on precarious work and livelihoods. The rapid casualisation of work has led to decrease in wages, reduced job security, the loss of employment benefits and increased vulnerability of workers. Changes in the labour market and South Africa’s high unemployment rates mean that many poor people remain trapped in systems of cheap labour. Many others engage in self-made informal livelihood strategies, and small businesses.

Informal trade plays a vital role in ensuring survival, livelihood and entrepreneurial opportunities for the urban poor. Despite this, there has been a growing intolerance of informal trade in towns and cities in South Africa. SERI works with informal traders to improve their access to economic infrastructure and markets, and to protect them from unfair removal and seizure of their stock.

SERI also protects the rights of workers at the very lowest rung of the formal labour market to organise free from the threat of unfair dismissal or eviction. This includes an ongoing relationship with the Commercial Stevedoring Agricultural and Allied Workers Union (CSAAWU), a farm worker union based in the Western Cape.


  • Read about SERI's Making a Living litigation here.
  • Read about SERI's Making a Living research here.
  • Read about SERI's Making a Living advocacy here.