Reference : Modernity on Credit: The Experience of Underground Miners on the Zambian Copperbelt
Scientific journals : Article
Arts & humanities : Multidisciplinary, general & others
Modernity on Credit: The Experience of Underground Miners on the Zambian Copperbelt
[en] Zambia
Musonda, James mailto [Université de Liège - ULiège > > IRSS >]
Journal of Southern African Studies
Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.
Yes (verified by ORBi)
[en] Zambia ; mine workers ; Loans
[en] This article explores the borrowing practices of Copperbelt underground miners in the
context of growing debt consumption since the privatisation of the country’s mining sector.
It explores why Zambian mine workers borrow and how they use loans. It shows that
growing debt consumption among mine workers is related to the labour practices of the
privatised mining companies. The payments in kind that typically accompanied mining
employment in the 20th Century, such as housing, children’s education, water and
electricity, have been withdrawn and meeting these costs now accounts for a significant
proportion of miners’ income. Employers have effectively shifted responsibility for social
welfare on to their workers, who receive increasingly low wages. At the same time, mass
layoffs since privatisation have placed increased pressure on miners to look after
retrenched and unemployed family members, while inflation has eroded their wages. The
growth of credit markets has accompanied and facilitated these transformations. For
contemporary mine workers, debt consumption is an attempt to reproduce the economic,
social and cultural conditions of a ‘modern life’, which mine workers on the Copperbelt
have associated with urban living since the colonial period. They invest borrowed money
in housing, in family education and in businesses. Given the rising cost of living and the
increasingly precarious nature of mine employment, this ‘modern life’ is primarily about
‘getting by’ and securing a post-employment future. Miners realise that they cannot live
without debt. As such, they employ various coping strategies to manage their indebtedness.
Keywords: loans; modernity; Zambia; mine workers; debt; credit; Copperbelt
European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement no. 646802).
WORKINMINING project led by Benjamin Rubbers at the Universite de Liege
Researchers ; Professionals ; Students ; General public ; Others
H2020 ; 646802 - WORKINMINING - Reinventing paternalism. The micropolitics of work in the mining companies of Central Africa

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