Policy making in context

Whilst both migration and health are highly political issues in South Africa and globally, policy responses do to not appear to prioritise harnessing the developmental benefits of migration.  Consequently, as a by-product of poor policy, unhealthy migrant populations – such as migrant farm workers – are often created. This project investigates the making and effects of policy around migration and health for migrant farm workers in Vhembe District, Limpopo.

Very little is known about what drives policy making in South Africa, particularly around migration and health. Understanding policy to be the result of both action and a lack of action on the part of the state, the aim of this project is to develop an approach that is able to go some way in explaining the policy process in South Africa.

Using migration and health policies as case studies, this project will examine how these policies are made, what effect they have on the health of migrant farm workers, and how these findings can be used to improve both the policy process and policy responses to migration and health in South Africa.

As an exploratory project, a mixed methods approach will be used, which will include key informant interviews, an analysis of grey literature, process tracing, and a quantitative survey with migrant farm workers.


About Thea de Gruchy

Thea de Gruchy is a postdoctoral researcher at the ACMS working on migration and health. Since the outbreak of the Covid19 pandemic in South Africa, much of Thea's work has pivoted to exploring the effect of the pandemic and implications of the South African state's response to the pandemic for migrant and mobile populations. As part of this work, Thea helps to coordinate the Migration and Coronavirus in Southern African group (MiCoSA).

Her PhD research, which was supervised by Jo Vearey, funded by the Wellcome Trust and part of the Migration and Health Project (maHp) at ACMS, centred on questions of policy process and asked how policy is made and influenced in South Africa. In 2015 and the beginning of 2016, Thea worked with Ingrid Palmary to answer some of these questions and inform a conceptual framework on how policy is made in South Africa using the Trafficking in Persons Act of 2013 as a case study. Her doctoral work uses a case study of health and occupational safety policy in the South African agricultural sector to elaborate on and develop this framework.

Thea’s MA, which was funded by the National Research Foundation (NRF), focused on the immigration industry and the relationship between the state, immigration intermediaries, and migrants. Part of this research explored the increasing precarity experienced by immigrants in South Africa as a result of changing and increasingly stringent immigration policy and regulations. Having received a Faculty of Humanities Ad Hoc Grant from the University of the Witwatersrand for 2016 to follow on with some of this research and as part of the Security at the Margins (SeaM) project – a collaborative project between ACMS and the Centre for African Studies at the University of Edinburgh – she continues to be interested in the relationship between policy, specifically policy framed in terms of security, and the precarity of marginalised and vulnerable groups.

Thea currently co-ordinates the PhD Work in Progress seminars at the ACMS.