The occupation of self-employment in South African informal micro-enterprises




informal sector, structural factors, contextual factors, occupational outcomes, Alexandra Township South Africa


Introduction:  Self-employment,  in  which  individuals  work  for themselves in a small business or microenterprise to earn an income or generate a salary, has been encouraged to facilitate employment opportunities in South Africa. However, participation in self-employment within the community served by professionals such as occupational therapists is limited by many factors, including effective government initiatives, such as implementing the Small Enterprise Development Agency  (SEDA)  policies.  To  enable  individuals  and  community participation in this type of work for those with occupational dysfunction, mainly persons with disabilities, professionals such as occupational therapists need to understand the structural, contextual and occupational outcomes related to self-employment. Based on the Framework for Occupational  Justice,  this  study  explored  the  occupation  of self-employment  in  microenterprises  in  the  low-resourced  urban community of Alexandra Township.

Method: A quantitative descriptive non-experimental design study was used to identify informal microenterprises in the community using a transect walk and community mapping. Structured interviews were conducted to complete a questionnaire with key informants (service providers and business owners) who provided perceptions on factors that impacted the occupational outcomes of microenterprises.

Results: Structural and contextual factors from the participants' experience resulted in unjust occupational outcomes, which indicates that occupational rights, particularly participation, choice and balance, were negatively affected by the lack of opportunities, such as jobs. Occupational marginalisation and imbalance were reported since many businesses lacked adequate and appropriate space for trade. Some business owners, however, reported just occupational outcomes related to the occupational right for meaningful occupation in providing a service to the community and financial income to support themselves and their families.

Conclusion: Occupational therapists need to play various active roles in raising the consciousness of unjust occupational outcomes and support for just occupational outcomes that are achieved in engagement in self-employment in informal microenterprises.

Implications for practice

Occupational therapists should take note of the factors and occupational outcomes of being self-employed identified in this study and consider the roles they could play in expediting success in this occupation for clients. Occupational therapists could assume:

  • A collaborative role, such as referring and working with various key role players or sectors in the interest of sourcing and providing opportunities for skills development for those entering self- employment, particularly in entrepreneurial training. This may include working with the government (e.g., Department of Labour and Small Enterprise Development Agency), private sector (e.g., yes4youth),  other  professions  (social  workers  and  industrial psychologists) and organisations for persons with disabilities (e.g., Disabled People, South Africa



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How to Cite

Monareng, L. L., Casteleijn, D., & Franzsen, D. (2024). The occupation of self-employment in South African informal micro-enterprises. South African Journal of Occupational Therapy, 54(1), 22–33.



Research Articles