n South African Journal of Labour Relations - Mediating from the margins : the role of intermediaries in facilitating participation in markets by poor producers

Volume 36, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0379-8410
  • E-ISSN: 2520-3223



This article argues that the preponderance of market intermediaries is driven by two imprimaturs. The first relates to the global shift in relations of production characterised by outsourcing, subcontracting and casualisation of labour, which in developing countries is associated with poverty and precariousness. The economic relationship between poor, informal producers and formal companies is frequently mediated by intermediaries or "labour brokers". The second imprimatur, which is the subject of the article, is the need to facilitate participation by marginalised producers in value chains, and potentially to facilitate a shift in the distribution of value from lead firms to informal producers or users. Drawing on empirical work, the article explores the different institutional forms of intermediation and, using "decent work" as a lens, examines the implications for the users and producers who rely on intermediation. The article argues that South Africa's black economic empowerment legislative framework potentially offers a policy space to shift some of the responsibility for realising decent work for informal producers from intermediaries to South African retailers.

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