Living in ‘waithood’: perceived impact of socio-economic conditions on quality of life of youth in Zandspruit informal settlement, South Africa

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Nothando Ngwenya University of Johannesburg, South Africa

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Eleanor Ross University of Johannesburg, South Africa

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Research on quality of life (QoL) is important for public policies and human development programmes. Given the high proportion of youth within the South African population, and the rapid expansion of informal settlements, the aim of the study was to investigate the socio-economic living conditions of youth in Zandspruit informal settlement and their perceived impact on their QoL. Guided by the Integrated Theory of Quality of Life and a blend of Honwana’s ‘waithood’ and Thieme’s ‘hustle’ theory, the research employed a qualitative, case study approach involving interviews with 20 youth between 18 and 35 years. Caught in prolonged ‘waithood’ between adolescence and adulthood, most participants were unemployed and relied on government grants or piece jobs. They acknowledged challenges that negatively affected their QoL such as lack of basic services which impacted their physical and mental health and feelings of safety. At the same time, they were able to see the benefits of living in Zandspruit such as having sporting programmes, business and job opportunities, availability of goods, and meeting people from different backgrounds. They were able to assert their agency to counter the negative environment and impact of waithood by socialising with family and friends, joining church choirs, engaging in sporting activities, helping children with homework, and persisting with job hunting. These activities represent ways of what refers to as ‘getting by’ while living in ‘waithood’. The study highlights the need to fast-track the implementation of the Upgrading of Informal Settlements Programme by providing essential services.

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Nothando Ngwenya University of Johannesburg, South Africa

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