Apartheid and Economic Growth: Craft unions, capital and the State in the South African building industry, 1945 1975

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


During the 1940s, when the craft unions were still able to control the standards of their trades, and the training and employment of skilled labour, they exhibited a militant style of trade union organisation that had little need for state support. However, dramatic shifts in the nature of the labour market coupled with aggressive state policies that undermined mixed unionism, began to erode the basis of craft union strategies of exclusion during the 1950s. The fragmentation of the skilled trades and the undercutting of skilled white wages by predominantly African labour was accelerated by the economic boom of the 1960s. Consequently, over the years the craft unions became progressively more dependent upon the state to enforce the exclusion of cheap labour on a racial basis. Ironically, as the craft unions became more dependent upon the apartheid policies of the state, these very policies were being jettisoned by the state which was under pressure to ensure the provision of housing for the urbanising African working class as well as maintain conditions of profitability for capital. Jn the early years of apartheid, building capitalists were ambiguous in their commitment to a rigid racial division of labour. However, under increasing pressure to compete with other industries that were making use of cheaper semi-skilled African labour, and faced with a chronic shortage of skilled
white labour, capital began to oppose job reservation and to promote the
advancement of unskilled African labour into semi-skilled occupations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)503-526
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Southern African Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1990


Dive into the research topics of 'Apartheid and Economic Growth: Craft unions, capital and the State in the South African building industry, 1945 1975'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this