South Africa has a persistently high rate of unemployment, currently standing at 25,5% (Statistics South Africa, 2014) despite the government’s prioritisation of development since the advent of democracy in 1994 (Republic of South Africa [RSA], 2008:11). The lack of sufficient jobs in the formal sector turns the focus for income-generation to the informal sector. The study was informed by the concern that unskilled and semi-skilled men are a neglected group in terms of economic development post democracy and that their poverty persists in spite of their involvement in income-generating projects.
The goal of this study was to explore the experiences of men involved in income-generating projects in the Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality in reducing their poverty.
The researcher utilised a qualitative research approach and an instrumental case study research design. The sample of 18 men was purposively selected from a population of 134 who had engaged in income-generating projects from all three regions of Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality. Data was collected through individual interviews and document analysis.
The study’s findings indicate that in spite of the support provided by government, the poverty level of project participants is not reduced, as the income-generating projects fail to provide sustainable livelihoods. Instead, the participants experience many challenges within the projects which impede their success. The study concludes that income-generating projects mostly fail to alleviate poverty as any reduction of poverty level is temporary and modest in magnitude. Furthermore, the failure of these projects to generate income and create employment means that young men are not attracted to the projects as capacity-building opportunities for business skills, despite the high unemployment rate of this age group.
Recommendations arising from this study include that the government, and in particular the Community Development Directorate within the Health and Social Department of the Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality, wherein the income-generating projects are located, revise these income-generating projects for purpose of facilitating skills acquisition and access to opportunities for employment, either through formal employment or self-employment through small businesses. Furthermore, as facilitators of these projects, social workers have to become more radical in their approach and advocate for resources that will enable them to implement poverty-reduction strategies that would effect positive change to the income and sustainable livelihoods of unemployed men.