Work in South Africa: Analysis of Workdays, Hours, Schedules and the Timing of Work

Thesis / Dissertation


Permanent link to this Item
Journal Title
Link to Journal
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
The concepts of labour supply and work are ultimately about the time people spend doing labour activities. In most developed countries, the rise of the 24-hour and gig economies has altered work structures by replacing traditional nine-to-five jobs and allowing for more flexible working hours (Donovan, Bradley, and Shimabukuru, 2016; Katz and Krueger, 2019; Presser, 1999). While this offers workers a better work-life balance, working non-standard work schedules and times, especially over prolonged periods, can have negative effects on the well-being of workers, families and society (Presser, 2005). However, work schedules and timing patterns are not thoroughly examined in existing labour supply studies, which primarily focus on weekly work hours (Hamermesh, 1996). Thus, this paper examines workers' labour supply in terms of hours per day, days per week and weekly schedules, as well as the instantaneous work times, using data from the 2008-2019 Quarterly Labour Force Surveys (QLFS) and the 2010 Time Use Survey (TUS). Considering that this kind of analysis on labour supply and work timing has been extensively researched in developed countries only, this paper contributes to the literature in the context of South Africa. Through descriptive and regression analysis, this paper seeks to provide a comprehensive view of work patterns, particularly the extent of non-standard work in South Africa. This paper finds that labour supply declined marginally across daily hours, days and weekly hours between 2008 and 2018. Although, the decline in workdays was more pronounced due to fewer people working on weekends. Surprisingly, the number of people working a standard 8-hours and 5-days work schedule increased significantly by 27% during the period, which suggests that work schedules in South Africa are becoming more standardised, in contrast to 24-hour and gig economy trends. Most people (95.8%) work during standard times, but up to 65% work outside those hours, typically in the early mornings and evenings. Work during non-standard times only accounts for 16.6% of the total work time in a day. Overall, the findings of this paper provide limited empirical evidence to suggest considerable changes in work schedules and timing to support the prevalence of the 24-hour and gig economies in South Africa.