Welcome to Econ3x3

Poor land governance stifles rural development and has knock-on effects in urban areas

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Reads 410
Pippa Green, Murray Leibbrandt, 23 November 2017

Several researchers in the REDI3x3 project focused on poverty in rural areas in the Eastern Cape, which contains two former apartheid homelands, the Ciskei and the Transkei. This article analyses the main messages of this research, highlighting the negative impact of poor land governance and uncertainty of tenure; knock-on effects are apparent in areas like Hout Bay and Marikana. [An edited version of this article appeared in Business Day on 10 November 2017. See references.]

Are we measuring poverty and inequality correctly? Comparing earnings using tax and survey data

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Reads 1,075
Martin Wittenberg, 3 October 2017

Calculating the earnings Gini coefficient with survey data from the Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) may lead to an underestimation of inequality. When one compares earnings in the tax assessments data to those in the QLFS, it appears that the earnings of employees in the QLFS are underreported. Benefits and annual bonuses contribute substantially to the gap. In the case of self-employment incomes, the top earnings in the QLFS are also underreported, but the tax data seems to miss many mid- and low-income earners.

Reservation wages found in surveys can be very misleading

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Reads 541
Rulof Burger, Patrizio Piraino, Asmus Zoch, 12 September 2017

The responses of unemployed workers to the typical survey question about their ‘lowest acceptable wages’ are susceptible to error and overestimation – particularly for people in persistent joblessness. Studies using only the responses to the standard question may incorrectly conclude that vulnerable workers are unemployed because they tend to price themselves out of employment – while in fact their responses are just unreliable and distorted indications of their true reservation wages. Alternative questions would give more reliable results.

Land and property rights: 'title deeds as usual' won’t work

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Reads 1,106
Rosalie Kingwill, 22 August 2017

Renewed emphasis in policy discourses on systematic land titling to solve insecure tenure in South Africa is understandable. A staggering two thirds of the citizenry hold off-register land rights. Converting these rights to title deeds may seem self-evident, but our research reveals major stumbling blocks. For a system of land records to succeed, its design must take into account well understood and familiar local and customary processes for holding, using and transmitting land in urban and rural areas.

The former Transkei and Ciskei homelands are still poor, but is there an emerging dynamism?

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Reads 812
Michael Aliber, 2 August 2017

The dominant perspective on the economic situation of the former homelands is that long-term, deliberate neglect has left a durable legacy of poverty and stagnation. While this may be largely correct, there is also evidence to suggest that the former homelands are dynamic. This article presents some evidence on population, employment and unemployment, in particular through a focus on the evolving nature of the linkages between former homeland towns and their rural environs.

The Transkei Wild Coast: still waiting for something to happen

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Reads 1,023
Mike Coleman, Mike Kenyon, 11 July 2017

The Wild Coast, in the former Transkei Bantustan, is characterised by natural beauty and great poverty. Since 1994 rural land administration has collapsed, land tenure has not been reformed, a succession of coastal development plans have been proposed but not implemented – and communities have become disillusioned. The few tourist-related developments that have taken root have done so despite the general collapse of rural governance and are due largely to the determination of local developers and their community partners

Technology and minimum wages are likely to change the mix of capital and labour in industry

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Reads 1,340
Friedrich Kreuser, Neil Rankin, 20 June 2017

While technology is making capital cheaper, policies like the national minimum wage will make labour more expensive. What does this mean for the choices firms make in terms of labour and capital inputs? This research shows that higher prices for labour will result in lower demand for labour, making job creation more difficult. Low-skilled and high-skilled labour are substitutes – higher wages for low-skilled workers will encourage firms to employ more high-skilled workers and become more skill intensive.

A job in the informal sector reduces poverty about as much as a job in the formal sector

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Reads 2,158
Paul Cichello, Michael Rogan, 30 May 2017

In the aggregate, earnings from jobs in the informal sector play a small role in reducing national poverty rates, especially because there are relatively few informal-sector jobs. However, if we compare on a per-job basis, the poverty reduction associated with one informal-sector job is generally between 50 to 100% of the poverty reduction associated with one formal-sector job. Growth in the number of jobs in the informal sector would be a sensible component of any plan to reduce poverty.

‘You can’t bite the hand that feeds you’: Contracts between SME suppliers and the large supermarkets

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Reads 1,430
Marlese von Broembsen, 9 May 2017

This article examines the implications of the contracts between the four main South African supermarkets and their SME suppliers. Supermarkets’ procurement practices, in particular their practice of charging suppliers a substantial ‘rebate commission’ as well as requiring suppliers to comply with private, rather than public, production and health standards, have a significant impact on the ability of new SME suppliers to enter the market and to create jobs. This has important policy implications.

Innovative joint ventures can boost agricultural production and promote agrarian transformation

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Reads 1,747
Andre Steenkamp, Duncan Pieterse, James Rycroft, 18 April 2017

Growing agriculture can reduce poverty, create economic opportunities in rural and peri-urban areas, and boost employment, particularly for semi- and unskilled workers. We review several successful joint ventures across South Africa which comprise a range of partnerships between smallholders, commercial farmers, agribusinesses, industry associations and government. Many of these partnerships have generated significant returns and transformational benefits. Well-designed joint ventures can complement existing government initiatives to drive more rapid agrarian transformation and increase production.

What makes the rand so volatile: global or home-made factors?

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Reads 2,164
Nasha Mavee, Axel Schimmelpfennig, 30 March 2017

Exchange-rate volatility can complicate decisions concerning trade and investment and constrain a country’s economic growth. Understanding what contributes to a currency’s volatility is an important first step in assessing whether economic policy can reduce this volatility. For South Africa, changes in global commodity prices and financial-market risk perceptions drive most of the rand’s volatility. However, local political uncertainty also emerges as a significant source of volatility. More policy and political predictability could help to smooth the rand’s volatility.

Could informal enterprises stimulate township economies? A study of two Midrand townships

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Reads 1,816
Eddie Rakabe, 28 February 2017

Informal enterprises are perceived to lack the necessary business and economic fundamentals to stimulate their local economies. However, informal enterprises are not homogenous. In a study of non-retail informal enterprises, we distinguish between Traditional Informal Enterprises (TIEs) and Modernising Informal Enterprises (MIEs) and assess whether Ivory Park and Kaalfontein townships have MIEs to catalyse the local economies. We find that 40% of the non-retail enterprises have a modernising orientation, but that the majority are predominantly traditional.

REDI3x3 conference: Policies for inclusive growth

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Reads 2,478
Murray Leibbrandt, Pippa Green, 15 February 2017

The REDI3x3 research project has completed most of its research at a time when unemployment, poverty and inequality is intense. With growth at just 0.5%, government needs to become more innovative in fixing the social policies that hamper progress. It should draw on all the research evidence to find ways to transform the structure of the economy without inhibiting growth. Addressing education, low labour intensity, the informal sector and the spatial legacies of apartheid can make a real difference.

Factors contributing to the demise of informal enterprises: evidence from a Cape township

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Reads 2,423
Andrew Hartnack, Rory Liedeman, 16 January 2017

The reasons for the closure of fairly well-established informal enterprises are varied. Between 2010 and 2015, in the Cape Flats township of Delft South, a key factor was the failure to respond adequately to the more entrepreneurial business model of foreign traders and the strict enforcement of unfavourable liquor trading policies. Still, household misfortunes and broader socio-cultural dynamics also played crucial roles. A richer understanding of why enterprises shut down should inform policy to foster the sustainability of informal enterprises.

Youth unemployment: what can we do in the short run?

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Reads 8,645
Lauren Graham, Ariane De Lannoy, 12 December 2016

The challenge of youth unemployment is shaped by factors in both the labour market and the education system, alongside intricate community, household and individual-level issues. This complex mixture may make it a seemingly intractable problem. While long-term solutions need to be discussed and implemented, certain options warrant attention in the short to medium term. If these were efficiently addressed, we could begin to break down the barriers that prevent entry into the labour market for at least some young people.

The employability of higher education graduates: are qualifications enough?

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Reads 1,949
Elza Lourens, Magda Fourie-Malherbe, 21 November 2016

The transition from higher education to employment is a challenge, considering persistent graduate un- and underemployment. Qualifications are not enough. Graduates (should) develop a ‘workplace identity’ that improves their chances of being employed. An empirical study shows that achieving employability frequently involves several labour-market states in which personal attributes are utilised but also developed. Most graduates are not prepared for this arduous journey, something both higher education institutions and graduates should attend to.

Are internal migrants more likely to be unemployed than locally born residents?

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Reads 1,574
Susan Ziehl, 11 October 2016

This article compares the labour-market status of migrants and locally born residents. The focus is on migration into Cape Town and the Western Cape from elsewhere in South Africa. Survey and census data show that migrants were more likely to be unemployed than residents in 2001 and 2011. However, in 2011 migrants were also more likely to be employed and to be economically active (working or wishing to work) than locally born residents. They are also more likely to be self-employed than non-migrants.

Between the devil and the deep blue sea? The financing of higher education

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Reads 7,080
Philippe Burger, 22 September 2016

Higher-than-inflation increases in student fees since 2009 often are blamed on declining government subsidies to universities. This is not entirely correct, if one considers real per-student subsidies. Fee increases resulted mainly from cost pressures faced by universities due to growing student numbers and a weakening rand. These pressures will not disappear. Eliminating government wastage is not a durable solution and difficult choices cannot be avoided. So, who should pay for increasing costs, students or government – or which combination of these?

The nuts and bolts of micro-manufacturing in the township - a Cape Town case study

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Reads 1,875
Leif Petersen, Andrew Charman, Paul Court, 6 September 2016

The informal sector is frequently viewed as comprising only street traders. However, micro-manufacturing of various types constitutes a small but significant component. A Cape Town case study of informal metalwork manufacturers, retailers, suppliers and customers shows that township metalworker enterprises and supply chains bring about important opportunities for promoting value adding, skills development and employment. Policy interventions that would help them grow include the provision of more suitable manufacturing and trading spaces as well as services such as electricity.

Predicting the impact of a national minimum wage: are the general equilibrium models up to the task?

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Reads 3,769
Gilad Isaacs, Servaas Storm, 11 August 2016

This article analyses whether computable general equilibrium (CGE) models are suitable for projecting the likely consequences of implementing a national minimum wage. Referring to modelling exercises undertaken by the National Treasury and the Development Policy Research Unit (DPRU), it shows that their projection of a strongly negative impact on employment and other macroeconomic indicators is a direct result of the architecture and assumptions of these models. By design these models preclude alternative outcomes; this renders them rather unsuitable as guides to policymaking.

Wealth inequality – striking new insights from tax data

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Reads 12,867
Anna Orthofer, 24 July 2016

Although South Africa is known for its extreme income inequality, the degree of wealth inequality is even greater. New tax and survey data suggest that 10% of the population own at least 90–95% of all assets, in contrast to their earning ‘only’ about 55–60% percent of all income. The finding supports the ongoing proposed reforms to close loopholes in estate taxation (Davis Tax Committee) and expand the coverage of pension systems (National Treasury).

Cooperatives: has the dream become a nightmare?

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Reads 3,236
Johannes Wessels, 23 June 2016

Over the past 15 years Government has promoted cooperatives at national and provincial levels with the aim of enabling small producers to tap into mainstream economic activities. Tens of thousands of cooperatives were formed in processes with officials’ performance appraisals based on the number of new cooperatives being formed. A 2014 study in the Free State indicates a very low survival rate of cooperatives and little evidence of job creation. This accords with earlier findings of an EU-funded study at the national level.

How accurate is our migration data?

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Reads 2,745
Susan Ziehl, 7 June 2016

The reliability of Census data on demography and migration comes under attack periodically. This article sheds light on the reliability of survey results with respect to migration into the Western Cape. Census data and two independent studies are compared and the convergence or divergence of the findings assessed. There is greater consistency for more aggregate-level measures than for disaggregated measures (whether by geographical unit or by race). Such comparisons of surveys are important for gauging the reliability of our knowledge of migration.

Day labourers and the role of foreign migrants: for better or for worse?

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Reads 2,699
Derick Blaauw, Anmar Pretorius, Rinie Schenck, 17 May 2016

Foreign migrants often enter informal employment as day labourers. They compete with South Africans for jobs in this curb-side labour market. Three surveys of day labourers working in Tshwane between 2004 and 2015 reveal two important tendencies. First, the foreign-migrant component has increased from 12% to just over 55% in 11 years. Secondly, the wages and the level of poverty of both foreign and South African day labourers have worsened in the same period.

Do low-paid workers’ wage increases raise unemployment – and is this relevant for the minimum wage debate?

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Reads 4,176
Dieter von Fintel, 30 March 2016

Increasing the wages of workers in the bottom half of the wage distribution contributes less to regional unemployment than increasing the wages of better-paid workers. The wages of the worst-paid – who live in regions of low union and large-firm concentration – play almost no role in unemployment. Collective bargaining arrangements appear to explain these differences. This phenomenon may soften the negative impact of a national minimum wage on employment in the short run, but might make matters worse in the longer run.

A growing informal sector: evidence from an enterprise survey in Delft

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Reads 4,592
Andrew Charman, Leif Petersen, 1 March 2016

Using a small-area census approach, this article reports on changes in informal micro-enterprise activity in the Cape township of Delft between 2010 and 2015. The number of micro-enterprises has doubled (from 879 to 1798) in five years, with growth recorded in almost all sectors (notably take-away food and street trade). The increase in the total is contrary to the official national trend. The prevalence of informal enterprises in residential areas, compared to those in the high street, has not changed.

Do government spending and taxation really reduce inequality, or do we need more thorough measurements? A response to the World Bank researchers

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Reads 5,003
Patrick Bond, 10 February 2016

World Bank staff and consultants claim that South Africa’s progressive taxation and pro-poor social spending reduce the Gini inequality coefficient from 0.77 to 0.59. But their data and methodology are deficient: their research ignores large areas of government spending and taxation that may significantly increase inequality. Thus their conclusion that fiscal policy is redistributive is overhasty and unfounded – whilst it is prone to be used, or misused, to promote a budget-cutting political agenda.

Have real wages fallen behind or increased out of line with productivity? A macroeconomic perspective

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Reads 3,539
Philippe Burger, 20 January 2016

Macroeconomic data on wages and productivity suggest that there has not been any constant tendency for real wages either to fall behind or increase out of line with increases in productivity. Upward shifts have affected real wages sporadically, but have subsequently been offset by downward shifts, leaving a one-to-one long-run relationship between real wages and productivity. This is contrary to the conventional wisdom in both the labour union and business worlds.

The inequality of space: what to do?

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Reads 4,528
Pippa Green, 15 December 2015

South Africa is the most unequal country in the world in terms of people’s income. But, two decades after apartheid’s demise, why has our urban and rural geography changed so little – and how does this reinforce inequality? This was the question at the centre of a recent REDI workshop on spatial inequality that brought together researchers, policymakers, and planners working in both urban and rural spaces.

What will housing megaprojects do to our cities?

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Reads 4,988
Ivan Turok, 10 November 2015

The building of large numbers of housing units in isolated greenfield locations has had detrimental side effects on our cities over the last two decades. Yet a series of new megaprojects, designed to accelerate the delivery of housing, is now on the cards. Because they are to be built on cheap peripheral land, these schemes threaten to reinforce urban fragmentation, inefficiency and exclusion.

How much is inequality reduced by progressive taxation and government spending?

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Reads 13,471
Ingrid Woolard, Rebecca Metz, Gabriela Inchauste, Nora Lustig, Mashekwa Maboshe, Catriona Purfield, 28 October 2015

Through progressive taxation and pro-poor social spending, the SA fiscal system reduces income inequality significantly. The extent of this reduction is larger than in twelve comparable middle-income countries measured similarly. Nevertheless, ‘final’ income (i.e. income after major taxes, government transfers and spending) remains more unequal than in comparator countries. While the fiscal system has an important role to play in reducing inequality, interventions to improve the distribution of wages, salaries and capital income are needed.

Tax(i)ing the poor? Implications of our high commuting costs

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Reads 5,191
Andrew Kerr, 20 October 2015

The time and monetary costs of commuting are extremely high and have increased over the last 20 years. They imply a substantial ‘tax’ on the wages of those who commute to work, notably on the users of public transport. Commuters increasingly use private vehicles and minibus taxis today compared to 1993. The government’s public transport subsidies seem to benefit those in the (lower) middle of the income distribution rather than low-income workers.

Labour and unemployment in South Africa: towards a ‘grand bargain’

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Reads 4,033
Ravi Kanbur, 7 October 2015

The problematics of the situation in South Africa are clear: high unemployment, high inequality and low growth, combined with a lack of consensus on what to do. It might be more fruitful to think in ‘grand bargain’ terms: a package of policies that are intended to balance opposing perspectives whose differences cannot be resolved through technical debate – and to set short-term political-economic imperatives against the longer time horizon needed for policy interventions to address deep structural legacies

A foot in the door: are NGOs effective as workplace intermediaries in the youth labour market?

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Reads 3,312
Veerle Dieltiens, 28 September 2015

It has been argued that properly focused workplace intermediaries can reshape the labour market to become more youth friendly. Case studies of NGO intermediaries in South Africa offer some optimism but also caution in this regard. Although the intermediaries were able to match unemployed youth to jobs, smooth the transition to work and even positively influence employers’ reticence, they are small in scale and costs are high – and they have yet to broker larger pacts to add more jobs.

Youth unemployment: can labour-market intermediaries help?

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Reads 3,759
Andre Kraak, 17 September 2015

Labour-market intermediaries can make a significant contribution to the reduction of youth unemployment.They recognise that the demand for labour is not fixed. By reshaping the attributes and broader workplace skills of the young jobseeker, labour market intermediaries can help overcome employers’ reticence to employing first-time workers. Such interventions, although small in scale, may be more successful than larger public works schemes of government. The potential positive impact of such intermediaries is demonstrated with international examples.

How flexible is the South African labour market in the short and long run?

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Reads 8,917
Dieter von Fintel, 31 August 2015

The inflexibility of the labour market is commonly used as a scapegoat to explain high unemployment. Yet new evidence shows that only in specific contexts (unionized workers in the short run) does wage rigidity restrain the ability of the labour market to absorb workers. In the long run, wages are much more flexible and structural factors explain more of the unemployment puzzle. The policy debate on unemployment and wage flexibility needs to take these subtleties into account.

Informal settlements: poverty traps or ladders to work?

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Reads 17,790
Ivan Turok, 12 August 2015

Informal urban settlements have a poor reputation as hotspots of social unrest, squalor and crime. Yet there is another side to them: as communities that are determined to lift themselves out of poverty via jobs in the city. In a society marked by severe social and spatial inequalities, these places may be useful vehicles for upward mobility. The ambivalence of government policy towards informal settlements needs to be replaced by a more positive approach.

How effective is VAT zero rating as a pro-poor policy?

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Reads 5,566
Ada Jansen, Estian Calitz, 20 July 2015

In most countries with VAT, certain goods and services are zero rated to alleviate the tax burden on the poor. However, this may not be the most cost-effective way of helping the poor. We investigate the appropriateness of the products currently zero rated and the impact of this on the poor, the implications for tax revenue were it to be removed, and the contribution to poverty relief of zero rating compared to targeted social transfers.

A national minimum wage: moving the debate forward?

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Reads 4,000
Frederick Fourie, Pippa Green, 29 June 2015

The public debate on a national minimum wage sometimes appears to occur in different universes. Two recent contributions to Econ3x3 may help to take the debate forward. This article analyses and contrasts these views and finds that, though they emphasise (and underplay) different aspects, the differences may not be insurmountable – especially once one recognises that the proposals apply to different time frames. [A shorter version of this article appeared as an op-ed article in Business Day on 25 June 2015. See references.]

Domestic abuse of children severely reduces their educational achievement

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Reads 4,653
Duncan Pieterse, 22 April 2015

Although many children are maltreated at home, we know little about the effects of abuse on long-term child development. This article explores the association between different ways in which children are maltreated and two educational outcomes (numeracy test scores and dropout). Children who are physically maltreated (e.g. hit hard) regularly suffer severe adverse consequences in terms of their numeracy test scores and probability of dropout – and hence their chances of employment and higher earnings.

The national minimum wage debate: looking beyond a narrow focus on labour markets

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Reads 6,833
Gilad Isaacs, Ben Fine, 17 March 2015

Most contributions to the debate on a national minimum wage adopt a narrow view of labour markets and accept that the structure of the economy will remain essentially as it is. We question both of these assumptions. Further, we argue that a national minimum wage, at a level to be determined through careful research, must be part of a well-designed package of longer-term policy reforms that look beyond the labour market and support employment growth through investment.

The layout of the township economy: the surprising spatial distribution of informal township enterprises

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Reads 9,675
Andrew Charman, Leif Petersen, 2 March 2015

A small-area census of micro-enterprises in Cape Town townships reveals that informal enterprises are located throughout the township, including in the residential areas. Three-quarters of the enterprises are located beyond the ‘high-street’. The most common enterprises (liquor and spaza shops) are not situated in what one would expect to be the prime business area with its considerable pedestrian traffic, but are in residential areas. Policies to promote the township economy need to come to terms with this reality.

Technology, labour power and labour’s declining income share in post-apartheid South Africa

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Reads 5,461
Philippe Burger, 17 February 2015

The share of labour in aggregate income in South Africa has declined significantly since 1993, while that of capital has increased. Concurrently, real wages have increased slower than productivity. This article argues that financialisation and the more aggressive returns-oriented investment strategies applied by large, global investment institutions have translated into investors requiring higher rates of return on capital. This, in turn, has led to the increased adoption of capital-augmenting, labour-saving technology that has reduced labour’s share of total income – with important consequences for income distribution.

Unpacking labour’s declining income share: manufacturing, mining and growing inequality

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Reads 4,226
Philippe Burger, 3 February 2015

While the share of capital increased, labour’s share of total income earned in South Africa fell significantly during the first two decades after 1994. These trends could contribute to a deterioration of income inequality, given that the ownership of capital – and thus the income from capital – is concentrated in fewer individuals than is the case with salaries and wages. This article explores labour’s falling share, with particular reference to the manufacturing and mining sectors.

What is at issue in the minimum wage debate?

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Reads 14,072
Jeremy Seekings, Nicoli Nattrass, 20 January 2015

The debate about implementing a national minimum wage obscures the key point, which is the level at which a national minimum wage should be set. A national minimum wage at a much higher level than the sectoral minimum wages currently set by the Employment Conditions Commission or agreed upon by unions under the Labour Relations Act is likely to result in job destruction, especially in the tradable sectors, with the result that poverty might be increased rather than reduced.

Should agriculture receive greater support as part of an inclusive growth strategy?

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Reads 5,428
Anthony Black, Beatrice Conradie, Hein Gerwel, 26 November 2014

In developing countries, agricultural growth is generally employment intensive and pro-poor but this sector in South Africa has been subject to a drastic decline in tariffs, pricing, infrastructure and other forms of support. This has not been compensated for by alternative measures such as expenditure aimed at facilitating small-scale agriculture and effective land reform. The result has been poor economic performance and rapidly declining employment in commercial agriculture with little sign of revival in the small-scale sector.

Enabling growth: redistribution priorities for South Africa

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Reads 5,945
Andrew Donaldson, 12 November 2014

If the National Development Plan is to be effectively implemented, we need clarity about the mechanisms through which growth and redistribution can be jointly advanced. Priorities include social security reform and quality improvements in social services, urban development, housing and public-transport investment. Expanding employment opportunities is the most pressing challenge, requiring policies that might include: support for labour-intensive industry and agriculture, small enterprise and informal sector development, well-targeted skills programmes, and wage or employment subsidies. Recognising the complementarity between redistributive and growth-enhancing measures is essential.

Redistribution is part of the toolkit to promote growth

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Reads 6,360
Andrew Donaldson, 7 October 2014

A recent IMF study of several countries provides robust evidence that a high level of income inequality weakens the prospects of sustained economic growth and reduces the duration of growth spells. Redistributive steps, by contrast, do not have a noticeable negative effect on growth. Therefore, a reduction in inequality that is achieved through redistributive steps could have a net pro-growth effect. The policy challenge for South Africa is to find the best policy mix to achieve that.

How inclusive is economic growth in South Africa?

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Reads 9,252
Frederick Fourie, 9 September 2014

While everybody seems to favour the pursuit of inclusive growth, this concept is rarely clearly defined in the policy debate. Inclusive growth is often confused or conflated with pro-poor growth or broad-based growth. A recent definition from researchers at the UNDP integrates the latter two concepts to include employment, poverty and inequality. A derivative Inclusiveness Index shows that South Africa has a very low degree of inclusiveness compared to other developing countries and that its growth since 1996 has not been inclusive.

How the old age pension is helping young people from rural areas find jobs

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Reads 8,908
Cally Ardington, Clare Hofmeyr, 30 July 2014

It is important to know whether a social grant such as the old age pension eases financial constraints in rural areas, thereby allowing young men to migrate to urban areas for work – or whether these grants encourage idleness and dependency. This study finds no evidence of the latter. Instead, for young rural males there is an increase in their chances of migrating and finding work when a member of the household starts receiving the pension. Notably, these effects are only present for young men with at least a matric.

Do poor children really benefit from the child support grant?

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Reads 15,149
Marisa Coetzee, 10 July 2014

The child support grant has been praised as one of the government’s most successful anti-poverty programmes. The rapid extension of the grant increases the importance of ascertaining its effectiveness: does the child support grant make any real difference to the lives of the millions of children who receive it? Using the 2008 NIDS data, a recently published study identifies a significant positive impact on recipient children’s health, nutrition and education as a result of receiving the grant.

More financial aid is not the best way to close the racial gap in tertiary education

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Reads 6,313
David Lam, Cally Ardington, Nicola Branson, Murray Leibbrandt, 18 June 2014

South Africa’s large racial gap in enrolment in tertiary education can be attributed to the widely varying quality of primary and secondary education rather than to the low incomes of most black and coloured households. Thus, easing credit constraints for prospective tertiary students via increased financial aid is expected to have a limited impact on African and coloured enrolment. Instead, policymakers should focus on improving educational quality at schools attended by children from low-income households.

Poverty may have declined, but deprivation and poverty are still worst in the former homelands

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Reads 8,304
Michael Noble, Wanga Zembe, Gemma Wright, 27 May 2014

Former homeland areas continue to have significantly higher levels of deprivation and poverty than the rest of South Africa. Of all the former homeland areas, the erstwhile Transkei in the Eastern Cape has the highest levels of deprivation (measured using the Index of Multiple Deprivation for 2011) as well as income poverty. Indeed, the deprivation gap between former homelands and the rest of South Africa has not declined in the period 2001 to 2011.

Poverty may have declined, but women and female-headed households still suffer most

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Reads 19,333
Michael Rogan, 6 May 2014

Amidst a decline in general poverty rates since 2000, women and people living in female-headed households still are significantly worse off. Women are up to 30% poorer than men on average. There is an even larger poverty gap between female- and male-headed households – a difference of as much as 100%, despite improved education, health and basic services. Better health, water and sanitation services, especially in rural areas, should narrow these gaps significantly.

Enforcement and compliance: the case of minimum wages and mandatory contracts for domestic workers

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Reads 9,075
Taryn Dinkelman, Vimal Ranchhod, Clare Hofmeyr, 14 April 2014

What happens when a previously unregulated labour market is regulated? After the introduction of minimum wages and mandatory employment contracts for domestic workers, wages increased markedly while neither employment nor hours worked declined; some formalisation of working conditions also occurred. All these occurred despite a lack of monitoring and enforcement, suggesting that such actions (often costly) are not essential for regulation to have a significant impact on informal employment conditions, at least in the short run.

How suitable is a ‘developmental state’ to tackle unemployment, inequality and poverty in South Africa?

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Reads 8,490
Philippe Burger, 26 March 2014

The National Development Plan envisions the achievement of a ‘capable and developmental state’. Developmental states are usually associated with high economic growth. Such states in East Asia often are seen as models for SA to emulate. However, given the structure of the SA economy, state and society, a developmental state is not suitable, nor attainable. The concept of a social investment state is a better alternative, but it will need key institutional and policy reforms to work.

What does the ‘middle class’ mean in a polarised, developing country such as South Africa?

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Reads 8,941
Ronelle Burger, Camren McAravey, 11 March 2014

In a developing, highly unequal country such as South Africa, it is unlikely that a definition of the middle class that is based on an income threshold will adequately capture the political and social meanings of being middle class. We propose a multi-dimensional definition, rooted in the ideas of empowerment and capability, and find that the ‘empowered middle class’ has expanded significantly since 1993. It also is much larger than when measured in terms of income.

What is the role of manufacturing in boosting economic growth and employment in South Africa?

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Reads 36,277
Nimrod Zalk, 11 February 2014

There is a widespread view that countries no longer need to industrialise in order to develop. However, in South Africa manufacturing remains the core driver of GDP growth and direct employment while other sectors – particularly many services sectors – are likely to increase employment on the basis of growing demand flowing from a growing GDP. A nuanced understanding of the direct and indirect linkages through which diversified manufacturing growth can boost economy-wide employment is essential.

Cape Town’s trade in wild medicines: ecological threat or essential livelihood resource?

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Reads 7,760
Leif Petersen, 29 January 2014

Cape Town is the urban centrepiece of a globally unique and highly diverse natural environment which should take priority in conservation management. But these biological assets also directly serve a local market of over 5 100 traditional healers and herbalists. The author discusses this important informal economy, business and cultural activity in the face of the broadening threats to conservation in the region, and the growing potential tension this presents in terms of policy and management.

How did hunger levels in the former homelands catch up with the rest of South Africa? A hundred years after the Land Act of 1913

recommended 0
Reads 6,894
Dieter von Fintel, Louw Pienaar, 14 January 2014

A century after the Land Act of 1913, and 20 years after the abolition of homelands, differences in poverty persist between the former homeland areas and the rest of South Africa. However, remarkably, hunger gaps between the former homelands and other regions have been eliminated in the post-apartheid era. The main cause has been the disproportionately high number of persons eligible for social grants in the former homelands, rather than increased food production or higher labour market incomes due to land reform.

Why are foreign-run spaza shops more successful? The rapidly changing spaza sector in South Africa

recommended 0
Reads 45,637
Rory Liedeman, Andrew Charman, Laurence Piper, Leif Petersen, 13 November 2013

This article examines the contrasting business models in the spaza shop sector, and compares foreign-run businesses with South African businesses. We argue that foreign shop keepers are more successful than South Africans because of the strength of their social networks, which provide them with access to labour and capital and enable collective purchasing and market domination. The article argues for a two-pronged policy that would formalise larger shops whilst permitting and encouraging informal micro and survivalist businesses.

The impact of youth employment incentives and wage subsidies: results of a trial run

recommended 0
Reads 23,994
Neil Rankin, 29 October 2013

The Employment Incentive Tax Bill offers tax subsidies to firms to employ new young workers. An evaluation of the impact of a wage subsidy voucher indicates that employment incentives increase the likelihood of young job-seekers being employed; they also increase the time young people remain employed. There is no evidence of older or existing workers being replaced. Such incentives are a relatively cheap and effective way to create employment, but are unlikely to create large numbers of jobs for young people.

The matric certificate is still valuable in the labour market

recommended 0
Reads 16,869
Clare Hofmeyr, Nicola Branson, Murray Leibbrandt, Cally Ardington, David Lam, 14 October 2013

Increasing levels of youth unemployment and learners’ poor performance at school have led to claims that the matric certificate no longer has much value in the labour market. However, the evidence does not support this claim. While the labour market conditions facing secondary school graduates have indeed worsened with time, the value of a matric certificate relative to that of grade 10 and 11 has remained positive both in terms of earnings and the likelihood of finding employment.

What caused the increase in unemployment in the late 1990s? Were education policies partly responsible?

recommended 0
Reads 8,858
Rulof Burger, Servaas van der Berg, Dieter von Fintel, 17 September 2013

In the late 1990s the Department of Education restricted the re-enrolment of over-aged learners and the number of times underperforming learners could repeat a grade. This was intended to reduce the number of learners in the school system, but may have contributed to a sudden increase in measured unemployment. Of the 2.3 million increase in the number of unemployed between 1997 and 2003, up to 900 000 may be due to unintended effects of these policies which brought hidden (youth) unemployment into the open.

The effect of basic infrastructure delivery on welfare in rural and urban municipalities

recommended 0
Reads 24,542
Henk Gnade, 3 September 2013

Access to a comprehensive set of basic infrastructure services is essential to attain social development goals and ensure equal opportunity for all people to participate in a country’s economy. This article investigates whether the delivery of basic infrastructure has a significant positive effect on growth and development in South Africa and whether the effect is different for urban and rural municipalities. A complex picture emerges, necessitating care in making such infrastructure investment decisions.

Unlocking the growth and employment potential of business in the margins

recommended 0
Reads 6,457
Eddie Rakabe, 13 August 2013

Marginalised businesses provide livelihood and income opportunities for a large section of the population. However, these businesses are not able to capture growth opportunities because of several constraints; they continue to operate on the periphery of the mainstream economy. Yet they could become a major source of employment growth. Efforts to unlock this potential must concentrate on exploiting value chains and making government policy more responsive to the unique needs and challenges of marginalised businesses.

The significant decline in poverty in its many dimensions since 1993

recommended 0
Reads 9,749
Arden Finn, Murray Leibbrandt, Ingrid Woolard, 29 July 2013

The measurement of poverty should include dimensions of well-being that cannot be measured in monetary terms. Data on health, education and standards of living can be used to calculate a so-called Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI). Results suggest that both the prevalence and the intensity of multidimensional poverty fell significantly from 1993 to 2010. The decline in multidimensional poverty is much greater than the decline in poverty as measured in terms of income and/or expenditure. Better social services and infrastructure have played a large role.

Is the middle class becoming better off? Two perspectives

recommended 0
Reads 8,032
Justin Visagie, 15 July 2013

Two very different pictures emerge when one compares income changes of the relatively affluent ‘middle class’ with those of people in the literal middle of the income spectrum. In the affluent middle there has been significant racial transformation and growth of the ‘black middle class’. However, households in the actual middle of the income spectrum have experienced the lowest income growth of all groups since 1993. Both perspectives are crucial for the pursuit of an equitable path of development.

How do the non-searching unemployed feel about their situation? On the definition of unemployment

recommended 0
Reads 10,654
Neil Lloyd, Murray Leibbrandt, 25 June 2013

New evidence suggests that non-searching unemployed people are significantly less satisfied with their lives than people who are not economically active. Indeed, the non-searching unemployed have hit rock bottom. Assuming that people do not freely choose an unsatisfactory state of living, a case is made that the non-searching unemployed – or ‘discouraged workers’ – are involuntarily unemployed and should be included in the definition and measurement of the labour force. Consequently, a case is made for the adoption of the broad measure of unemployment.

The impact of sectoral minimum wage laws in South Africa

recommended 0
Reads 29,652
Haroon Bhorat, Natasha Mayet, 10 June 2013

The introduction of minimum wage laws in five non-agricultural sectors has not been associated with a significant loss in employment in the years following their promulgation – a period when most sectors also saw a significant increase in real hourly wages. Indeed, several sectors recorded an increase in employment. However, in some sectors there is evidence of a relatively small reduction in the hours worked by employees. On the whole, the effects of minimum wages are varied.

How much do unions and bargaining councils elevate wages?

recommended 0
Reads 17,596
Carlene van der Westhuizen, Haroon Bhorat, Sumayya Goga, 28 May 2013

Past studies have found that trade union members earn substantially higher wages than non-union workers. New results suggest a much lower union wage premium (6-7%) when the impact of the size of the firm, the type of employment and non-wage benefits are properly taken into account. On the other hand, bargaining council agreements have a higher impact on wages than unions do, so that the cumulative wage premium of unions and bargaining councils averages more than 16%. For the public sector this can be as high as 22%.

How high is graduate unemployment in South Africa? A much-needed update

recommended 0
Reads 54,218
Hendrik van Broekhuizen, Servaas van der Berg, 12 May 2013

The frequently reported ‘crisis in graduate unemployment’ in South Africa is a fallacy based on questionable research. Not only is graduate unemployment low at less than 6%, but it also compares well with rates in developed countries. The large expansion of black graduate numbers has not significantly exacerbated unemployment amongst graduates. Contrary to popular perception, such graduates – many from ‘formerly disadvantaged’ universities – have been snapped up by the private sector. Black graduates are, however, still more likely to be unemployed than white graduates.

Who are the middle class in South Africa? Does it matter for policy?

recommended 0
Reads 63,248
Justin Visagie, 29 April 2013

The middle class is a hot topic in media and policy circles. But how should the middle class be defined, particularly in a country with high levels of inequality? Individuals and households which fall in the actual middle of the income distribution in South Africa have a standard of living well below a ‘middle-class lifestyle’. Defining the middle class on the basis of the ‘actual middle’ versus ‘relative affluence’ provides vastly different pictures. This necessitates great care in using these conceptions, especially in policy design.

The Budget’s fiscal stance: The non-cyclical element may be a cause for concern

recommended 0
Reads 13,788
Wynnona Steyn, 16 April 2013

It is estimated that less than half of the present main budget deficit of 5.7% is explained by cyclical factors. The remainder reflects a non-cyclical, structural component of the deficit. The increase in the structural budget deficit since 2008 may constrain the ability of government to sustain its present revenue and expenditure policies. An in-depth understanding of the structural component of the fiscal position as opposed to its cyclical element is important for sustainable long-term government financing and planning.

The Budget: both the fiscal stance and ‘structural stance’ are sound

recommended 0
Reads 5,375
Kuben Naidoo, 25 March 2013

Many economists have argued that the government’s fiscal stance in the recent budget is verging on the risky. This article argues that the fiscal stance is both correct and prudent. In addition, the article puts the budget in a broader developmental context, highlighting its contribution to long-term growth and development and to tackling poverty and inequality.

Reducing unemployment: Waiting for high growth? Waiting for Godot?

recommended 0
Reads 33,718
Frederick Fourie, 12 March 2013

In trying to reduce unemployment in South Africa, the pursuit of higher economic growth is the single most agreed-upon policy strategy. The consensus on this ‘obvious solution’ may blind us to the fact that economic growth, though important, may only be half of the solution. Attempts to fine-tune and turbo-boost the formal-economy ‘engine of growth’ to absorb more labour are fundamentally constrained. Economic policy makers must look at other options for generating employment and self-employment for unemployed people.

The unemployed in South Africa: Why are so many not counted?

recommended 0
Reads 30,962
Dorrit Posel, Daniela Casale, Claire Vermaak, 26 February 2013

The official rate of unemployment includes only the unemployed who are actively searching for work. However, findings from new data challenge this practice. The ‘searching unemployed’ are no more likely to find employment than the ‘non-searching unemployed’. This casts doubt on the idea that non-searchers are not committed to finding work. Furthermore, many people find jobs through social networks – but this job-finding strategy is not adequately recognised as ‘searching for work’ in official statistical surveys. StatsSA should reconsider how they count the ‘officially’ unemployed.

The original criticisms of the Adcorp Employment Index (February 2012)

recommended 0
Reads 6,617
Andrew Kerr, Martin Wittenberg, 20 February 2013

Adcorp’s estimated unemployment rate is so low that it disposes of the unemployment crisis. But Adcorp uses a crude currency-demand method to estimate the size of the unrecorded economy, despite researchers’ strong criticism of this method. To estimate informal sector employment, Adcorp mixes up definitions of informal employment and the unrecorded economy and guesses at the labour intensity of the unrecorded economy. They also guess at the number of illegal immigrants. Moreover, Adcorp’s estimates have no statistical precision. Its figures are neither reliable nor credible.

Adcorp’s employment and unemployment figures are not taken seriously by researchers – yet they can do much harm

recommended 0
Reads 75,716
Servaas van der Berg, 12 February 2013

Adcorp’s unemployment figures are derived from weak research and is repeated too often by gullible journalists. Based on a flawed methodology and dubious assumptions, the Adcorp figures imply that only about a million people are unemployed and that the total unemployment rate is 5%. At the same time, Adcorp has published an inflated figure for graduate unemployment (600 000) – a grave inconsistency. Whilst serious researchers will not touch Adcorp data, it can harm decision-making by policymakers and potential university students and their parents.

How will a job-search subsidy create jobs?

recommended 0
Reads 8,919
Neil Rankin, 5 February 2013

A job-search subsidy has been proposed as a measure to help people find employment. At least three criteria need to be met to create new jobs for those who receive the subsidy. First, it needs to be used only to search for jobs or to remove the financial constraints that prevent people from searching for jobs; second, firms need to recruit through the channels which subsidy holders actually use to seek employment; and third, the relative cost of labour needs to fall.

Reducing inequality to promote growth: a proposed policy package

recommended 0
Reads 18,906
Kuben Naidoo, 30 January 2013

Any growth strategy for South Africa should include elements that address inequality explicitly. This article identifies reforms that are likely to support growth in the long term and proposes a policy framework to ensure a more equitable distribution of the dividends of economic growth. These relate to high-quality education for the poor, progressive taxation, a social safety net, anti-monopoly policies and labour market reforms to promote the employment of low-skilled people.

Minimum wages and compliance in South African agriculture

recommended 0
Reads 23,052
Benjamin Stanwix, 22 January 2013

Average wages in agriculture have risen substantially in all provinces since the introduction of minimum wages in 2003 - the gap between the actual and the minimum wage has declined significantly. Compliance has been highest in the Western Cape and Gauteng, where average agricultural wages were close to or above the minimum wage even before it was introduced and wages have continued to rise thereafter. Although enforcement appears to have had a limited impact due in part to limited penalties, more effective inspection would be an important way to improve compliance.

Who creates jobs, who destroys jobs? Small firms, large firms and labour market rigidity

recommended 1
Reads 14,733
Andrew Kerr, Martin Wittenberg, Jairo Arrow, 15 January 2013

Firm-level data for the period 2005 to 2011 indicate that job creation and destruction rates in South Africa are only slightly lower than among OECD countries. Around 10% of existing jobs are destroyed each year, while the number of new jobs is around 9.5% of existing employment. Larger firms have higher rates of net job creation than small firms. The relatively high reallocation of employment across firms suggests lower rigidities in the South African labour market than is sometimes believed.

The National Development Plan and exports as a catalyst to generate employment growth: Can it work?

recommended 1
Reads 7,349
Philippe Burger, 20 November 2012

Small and medium-sized firms hold the potential to absorb most of the unemployed in South Africa. In this the NDP may be correct. However, the NDP may not be correct in arguing that exports can be the main catalyst of the growth the country needs to address poverty and employment. Several factors hinder such a strategy. A more domestically-focused policy aimed at production (and services) for local consumption might bear more fruit.

Is Marikana a forerunner of national labour market instability and disruption?

recommended 1
Reads 10,871
Haroon Bhorat, Mornè Oosthuizen, 19 November 2012

The tragic events at Marikana raise the question whether the events and subsequent developments are indicative of a fundamental change in labour market relations and wage bargaining relationships in South Africa - and whether such patterns of behaviour are likely to spread beyond the mining sector. We identify five contributing factors that are specific to the mining sector. These relate to labour relations, public services and migrant labour. Since these factors do not characterise the rest of the economy, we conclude that a spreading of Marikana-type bargaining is unlikely.

The unemployment debate is too fragmented to address the problem

recommended 1
Reads 8,812
Frederick Fourie, 18 November 2012

The debate on unemployment is fragmented into at least three sub-discourses, i.e. those of macroeconomists, labour economists and poverty analysts. This results in inconclusive analyses and narrow, flawed proposals to address the problem. This fragmentation feeds into the policy field. Sustainable and consistent remedies for unemployment and poverty will require an integrated analysis that covers the formal sector, the informal economy and survivalist activities – and especially linkages and barriers between these segments.

Industrial policy and unemployment: Can South Africa do better in labour-demanding manufacturing?

recommended 1
Reads 10,194
Anthony Black, 17 November 2012

In spite of policy statements prioritising labour-absorbing growth, de facto policy support has favoured heavy industry and been damaging for employment. Industrial policy should be less concerned with ‘beneficiation’ and technological upgrading and more concerned with promoting economy-wide efficiency. In the context of massive unemployment, this means tilting the playing field towards labour-absorbing growth to mobilise the huge potential of an under-employed and poorly-skilled workforce.

How structural inequality limits employment and self-employment in poor areas (or: Why South Africa’s informal sector is so small)

recommended 0
Reads 11,035
Kate Philip, 16 November 2012

Given South Africa’s high levels of unemployment, the relatively small size of the micro-enterprise sector is a conundrum. This article argues that structural inequality is the reason for this – in particular, inequality in the structure of the economy, the legacies of spatial inequality and the continued inequalities in human development. Their combined effect is to limit the scope for poor people to escape poverty via self-employment. This explains the limited extent and small range of informal employment.

Jobs growth from informal producers that supply the formal sector? The case for intermediaries

recommended 1
Reads 13,580
Marlese von Broembsen, 11 November 2012

Government’s vision for the development of informal business is that, with the right support, these enterprises will achieve formal status, contribute to economic growth and create jobs. However, few informal businesses produce goods for which the formal economy has any a demand. Moreover, informal producers are structurally prevented from accessing the formal economy without the facilitation of intermediaries. This implies the need for an enabling institutional and legal environment which (a) supports intermediaries that assist informal producers to access formal markets and (b) provides incentives for formal-sector retailers to enter into contracts with intermediaries on more equitable terms. BEE is a possible way to provide such incentives.

Is informality being disallowed by government?

recommended 1
Reads 12,398
Andrew Charman, 11 November 2012

The South African government continues to pursue efforts to 'migrate' informal enterprises to the formal sector. This article examines the impact of regulations and law enforcement on the 'lived' economy of informal micro-entrepreneurs. Spatial analysis shows how the scope and distribution of informal economic activities are directly affected by regulation, land use planning and other controls. Such controls that effectively disallow informality are poor-unfriendly and harm livelihoods, self-employment and employment.

The Jobs Fund and a youth wage subsidy: Design and implementation issues

recommended 1
Reads 8,816
Eddie Rakabe, 11 November 2012

As part of perpetual policy experimentation and search for that elusive ‘silver bullet’ to deal with unemployment, the South African government recently introduced the Jobs Fund and continues to mull over the idea of youth wage subsidies – vehemently opposed by trade unions. The success of these programs is highly dependent on effective design and administration. This article evaluates program design features against a number of factors.

Wealth inequality – striking new insights from tax data

Reads 12,867
Anna Orthofer on 24 July 2016

Although South Africa is known for its extreme income inequality, the degree of wealth inequality is even greater. New tax and survey data suggest that 10% of the population own at least 90–95% of all assets, in contrast to their earning ‘only’ about 55–60% percent of all income. The finding supports the ongoing proposed reforms to close loopholes in estate taxation (Davis Tax Committee) and expand the coverage of pension systems (National Treasury).

Youth unemployment: what can we do in the short run?

Reads 8,645
Lauren Graham, Ariane De Lannoy on 12 December 2016

The challenge of youth unemployment is shaped by factors in both the labour market and the education system, alongside intricate community, household and individual-level issues. This complex mixture may make it a seemingly intractable problem. While long-term solutions need to be discussed and implemented, certain options warrant attention in the short to medium term. If these were efficiently addressed, we could begin to break down the barriers that prevent entry into the labour market for at least some young people.

Between the devil and the deep blue sea? The financing of higher education

Reads 7,080
Philippe Burger on 22 September 2016

Higher-than-inflation increases in student fees since 2009 often are blamed on declining government subsidies to universities. This is not entirely correct, if one considers real per-student subsidies. Fee increases resulted mainly from cost pressures faced by universities due to growing student numbers and a weakening rand. These pressures will not disappear. Eliminating government wastage is not a durable solution and difficult choices cannot be avoided. So, who should pay for increasing costs, students or government – or which combination of these?

Predicting the impact of a national minimum wage: are the general equilibrium models up to the task?

Reads 3,769
Gilad Isaacs, Servaas Storm on 11 August 2016

This article analyses whether computable general equilibrium (CGE) models are suitable for projecting the likely consequences of implementing a national minimum wage. Referring to modelling exercises undertaken by the National Treasury and the Development Policy Research Unit (DPRU), it shows that their projection of a strongly negative impact on employment and other macroeconomic indicators is a direct result of the architecture and assumptions of these models. By design these models preclude alternative outcomes; this renders them rather unsuitable as guides to policymaking.

Cooperatives: has the dream become a nightmare?

Reads 3,236
Johannes Wessels on 23 June 2016

Over the past 15 years Government has promoted cooperatives at national and provincial levels with the aim of enabling small producers to tap into mainstream economic activities. Tens of thousands of cooperatives were formed in processes with officials’ performance appraisals based on the number of new cooperatives being formed. A 2014 study in the Free State indicates a very low survival rate of cooperatives and little evidence of job creation. This accords with earlier findings of an EU-funded study at the national level.

REDI3x3 conference: Policies for inclusive growth

Reads 2,478
Murray Leibbrandt, Pippa Green on 15 February 2017

The REDI3x3 research project has completed most of its research at a time when unemployment, poverty and inequality is intense. With growth at just 0.5%, government needs to become more innovative in fixing the social policies that hamper progress. It should draw on all the research evidence to find ways to transform the structure of the economy without inhibiting growth. Addressing education, low labour intensity, the informal sector and the spatial legacies of apartheid can make a real difference.

Factors contributing to the demise of informal enterprises: evidence from a Cape township

Reads 2,423
Andrew Hartnack, Rory Liedeman on 16 January 2017

The reasons for the closure of fairly well-established informal enterprises are varied. Between 2010 and 2015, in the Cape Flats township of Delft South, a key factor was the failure to respond adequately to the more entrepreneurial business model of foreign traders and the strict enforcement of unfavourable liquor trading policies. Still, household misfortunes and broader socio-cultural dynamics also played crucial roles. A richer understanding of why enterprises shut down should inform policy to foster the sustainability of informal enterprises.

What makes the rand so volatile: global or home-made factors?

Reads 2,164
Nasha Mavee, Axel Schimmelpfennig on 30 March 2017

Exchange-rate volatility can complicate decisions concerning trade and investment and constrain a country’s economic growth. Understanding what contributes to a currency’s volatility is an important first step in assessing whether economic policy can reduce this volatility. For South Africa, changes in global commodity prices and financial-market risk perceptions drive most of the rand’s volatility. However, local political uncertainty also emerges as a significant source of volatility. More policy and political predictability could help to smooth the rand’s volatility.

A job in the informal sector reduces poverty about as much as a job in the formal sector

Reads 2,158
Paul Cichello, Michael Rogan on 30 May 2017

In the aggregate, earnings from jobs in the informal sector play a small role in reducing national poverty rates, especially because there are relatively few informal-sector jobs. However, if we compare on a per-job basis, the poverty reduction associated with one informal-sector job is generally between 50 to 100% of the poverty reduction associated with one formal-sector job. Growth in the number of jobs in the informal sector would be a sensible component of any plan to reduce poverty.

The employability of higher education graduates: are qualifications enough?

Reads 1,949
Elza Lourens, Magda Fourie-Malherbe on 21 November 2016

The transition from higher education to employment is a challenge, considering persistent graduate un- and underemployment. Qualifications are not enough. Graduates (should) develop a ‘workplace identity’ that improves their chances of being employed. An empirical study shows that achieving employability frequently involves several labour-market states in which personal attributes are utilised but also developed. Most graduates are not prepared for this arduous journey, something both higher education institutions and graduates should attend to.

The nuts and bolts of micro-manufacturing in the township - a Cape Town case study

Reads 1,875
Leif Petersen, Andrew Charman, Paul Court on 6 September 2016

The informal sector is frequently viewed as comprising only street traders. However, micro-manufacturing of various types constitutes a small but significant component. A Cape Town case study of informal metalwork manufacturers, retailers, suppliers and customers shows that township metalworker enterprises and supply chains bring about important opportunities for promoting value adding, skills development and employment. Policy interventions that would help them grow include the provision of more suitable manufacturing and trading spaces as well as services such as electricity.

Could informal enterprises stimulate township economies? A study of two Midrand townships

Reads 1,816
Eddie Rakabe on 28 February 2017

Informal enterprises are perceived to lack the necessary business and economic fundamentals to stimulate their local economies. However, informal enterprises are not homogenous. In a study of non-retail informal enterprises, we distinguish between Traditional Informal Enterprises (TIEs) and Modernising Informal Enterprises (MIEs) and assess whether Ivory Park and Kaalfontein townships have MIEs to catalyse the local economies. We find that 40% of the non-retail enterprises have a modernising orientation, but that the majority are predominantly traditional.

Innovative joint ventures can boost agricultural production and promote agrarian transformation

Reads 1,747
Andre Steenkamp, Duncan Pieterse, James Rycroft on 18 April 2017

Growing agriculture can reduce poverty, create economic opportunities in rural and peri-urban areas, and boost employment, particularly for semi- and unskilled workers. We review several successful joint ventures across South Africa which comprise a range of partnerships between smallholders, commercial farmers, agribusinesses, industry associations and government. Many of these partnerships have generated significant returns and transformational benefits. Well-designed joint ventures can complement existing government initiatives to drive more rapid agrarian transformation and increase production.

Are internal migrants more likely to be unemployed than locally born residents?

Reads 1,574
Susan Ziehl on 11 October 2016

This article compares the labour-market status of migrants and locally born residents. The focus is on migration into Cape Town and the Western Cape from elsewhere in South Africa. Survey and census data show that migrants were more likely to be unemployed than residents in 2001 and 2011. However, in 2011 migrants were also more likely to be employed and to be economically active (working or wishing to work) than locally born residents. They are also more likely to be self-employed than non-migrants.

‘You can’t bite the hand that feeds you’: Contracts between SME suppliers and the large supermarkets

Reads 1,430
Marlese von Broembsen on 9 May 2017

This article examines the implications of the contracts between the four main South African supermarkets and their SME suppliers. Supermarkets’ procurement practices, in particular their practice of charging suppliers a substantial ‘rebate commission’ as well as requiring suppliers to comply with private, rather than public, production and health standards, have a significant impact on the ability of new SME suppliers to enter the market and to create jobs. This has important policy implications.

Technology and minimum wages are likely to change the mix of capital and labour in industry

Reads 1,340
Friedrich Kreuser, Neil Rankin on 20 June 2017

While technology is making capital cheaper, policies like the national minimum wage will make labour more expensive. What does this mean for the choices firms make in terms of labour and capital inputs? This research shows that higher prices for labour will result in lower demand for labour, making job creation more difficult. Low-skilled and high-skilled labour are substitutes – higher wages for low-skilled workers will encourage firms to employ more high-skilled workers and become more skill intensive.

Land and property rights: 'title deeds as usual' won’t work

Reads 1,106
Rosalie Kingwill on 22 August 2017

Renewed emphasis in policy discourses on systematic land titling to solve insecure tenure in South Africa is understandable. A staggering two thirds of the citizenry hold off-register land rights. Converting these rights to title deeds may seem self-evident, but our research reveals major stumbling blocks. For a system of land records to succeed, its design must take into account well understood and familiar local and customary processes for holding, using and transmitting land in urban and rural areas.

Are we measuring poverty and inequality correctly? Comparing earnings using tax and survey data

Reads 1,075
Martin Wittenberg on 3 October 2017

Calculating the earnings Gini coefficient with survey data from the Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) may lead to an underestimation of inequality. When one compares earnings in the tax assessments data to those in the QLFS, it appears that the earnings of employees in the QLFS are underreported. Benefits and annual bonuses contribute substantially to the gap. In the case of self-employment incomes, the top earnings in the QLFS are also underreported, but the tax data seems to miss many mid- and low-income earners.

The Transkei Wild Coast: still waiting for something to happen

Reads 1,023
Mike Coleman, Mike Kenyon on 11 July 2017

The Wild Coast, in the former Transkei Bantustan, is characterised by natural beauty and great poverty. Since 1994 rural land administration has collapsed, land tenure has not been reformed, a succession of coastal development plans have been proposed but not implemented – and communities have become disillusioned. The few tourist-related developments that have taken root have done so despite the general collapse of rural governance and are due largely to the determination of local developers and their community partners

The former Transkei and Ciskei homelands are still poor, but is there an emerging dynamism?

Reads 812
Michael Aliber on 2 August 2017

The dominant perspective on the economic situation of the former homelands is that long-term, deliberate neglect has left a durable legacy of poverty and stagnation. While this may be largely correct, there is also evidence to suggest that the former homelands are dynamic. This article presents some evidence on population, employment and unemployment, in particular through a focus on the evolving nature of the linkages between former homeland towns and their rural environs.

Reservation wages found in surveys can be very misleading

Reads 541
Rulof Burger, Patrizio Piraino, Asmus Zoch on 12 September 2017

The responses of unemployed workers to the typical survey question about their ‘lowest acceptable wages’ are susceptible to error and overestimation – particularly for people in persistent joblessness. Studies using only the responses to the standard question may incorrectly conclude that vulnerable workers are unemployed because they tend to price themselves out of employment – while in fact their responses are just unreliable and distorted indications of their true reservation wages. Alternative questions would give more reliable results.

Poor land governance stifles rural development and has knock-on effects in urban areas

Reads 410
Pippa Green, Murray Leibbrandt on 23 November 2017

Several researchers in the REDI3x3 project focused on poverty in rural areas in the Eastern Cape, which contains two former apartheid homelands, the Ciskei and the Transkei. This article analyses the main messages of this research, highlighting the negative impact of poor land governance and uncertainty of tenure; knock-on effects are apparent in areas like Hout Bay and Marikana. [An edited version of this article appeared in Business Day on 10 November 2017. See references.]

Adcorp’s employment and unemployment figures are not taken seriously by researchers – yet they can do much harm

Reads 75,716
Servaas van der Berg on 12 February 2013

Adcorp’s unemployment figures are derived from weak research and is repeated too often by gullible journalists. Based on a flawed methodology and dubious assumptions, the Adcorp figures imply that only about a million people are unemployed and that the total unemployment rate is 5%. At the same time, Adcorp has published an inflated figure for graduate unemployment (600 000) – a grave inconsistency. Whilst serious researchers will not touch Adcorp data, it can harm decision-making by policymakers and potential university students and their parents.

Who are the middle class in South Africa? Does it matter for policy?

Reads 63,248
Justin Visagie on 29 April 2013

The middle class is a hot topic in media and policy circles. But how should the middle class be defined, particularly in a country with high levels of inequality? Individuals and households which fall in the actual middle of the income distribution in South Africa have a standard of living well below a ‘middle-class lifestyle’. Defining the middle class on the basis of the ‘actual middle’ versus ‘relative affluence’ provides vastly different pictures. This necessitates great care in using these conceptions, especially in policy design.

How high is graduate unemployment in South Africa? A much-needed update

Reads 54,218
Hendrik van Broekhuizen, Servaas van der Berg on 12 May 2013

The frequently reported ‘crisis in graduate unemployment’ in South Africa is a fallacy based on questionable research. Not only is graduate unemployment low at less than 6%, but it also compares well with rates in developed countries. The large expansion of black graduate numbers has not significantly exacerbated unemployment amongst graduates. Contrary to popular perception, such graduates – many from ‘formerly disadvantaged’ universities – have been snapped up by the private sector. Black graduates are, however, still more likely to be unemployed than white graduates.

Why are foreign-run spaza shops more successful? The rapidly changing spaza sector in South Africa

Reads 45,637
Rory Liedeman, Andrew Charman, Laurence Piper, Leif Petersen on 13 November 2013

This article examines the contrasting business models in the spaza shop sector, and compares foreign-run businesses with South African businesses. We argue that foreign shop keepers are more successful than South Africans because of the strength of their social networks, which provide them with access to labour and capital and enable collective purchasing and market domination. The article argues for a two-pronged policy that would formalise larger shops whilst permitting and encouraging informal micro and survivalist businesses.

What is the role of manufacturing in boosting economic growth and employment in South Africa?

Reads 36,277
Nimrod Zalk on 11 February 2014

There is a widespread view that countries no longer need to industrialise in order to develop. However, in South Africa manufacturing remains the core driver of GDP growth and direct employment while other sectors – particularly many services sectors – are likely to increase employment on the basis of growing demand flowing from a growing GDP. A nuanced understanding of the direct and indirect linkages through which diversified manufacturing growth can boost economy-wide employment is essential.

Reducing unemployment: Waiting for high growth? Waiting for Godot?

Reads 33,718
Frederick Fourie on 12 March 2013

In trying to reduce unemployment in South Africa, the pursuit of higher economic growth is the single most agreed-upon policy strategy. The consensus on this ‘obvious solution’ may blind us to the fact that economic growth, though important, may only be half of the solution. Attempts to fine-tune and turbo-boost the formal-economy ‘engine of growth’ to absorb more labour are fundamentally constrained. Economic policy makers must look at other options for generating employment and self-employment for unemployed people.

The unemployed in South Africa: Why are so many not counted?

Reads 30,962
Dorrit Posel, Daniela Casale, Claire Vermaak on 26 February 2013

The official rate of unemployment includes only the unemployed who are actively searching for work. However, findings from new data challenge this practice. The ‘searching unemployed’ are no more likely to find employment than the ‘non-searching unemployed’. This casts doubt on the idea that non-searchers are not committed to finding work. Furthermore, many people find jobs through social networks – but this job-finding strategy is not adequately recognised as ‘searching for work’ in official statistical surveys. StatsSA should reconsider how they count the ‘officially’ unemployed.

The impact of sectoral minimum wage laws in South Africa

Reads 29,652
Haroon Bhorat, Natasha Mayet on 10 June 2013

The introduction of minimum wage laws in five non-agricultural sectors has not been associated with a significant loss in employment in the years following their promulgation – a period when most sectors also saw a significant increase in real hourly wages. Indeed, several sectors recorded an increase in employment. However, in some sectors there is evidence of a relatively small reduction in the hours worked by employees. On the whole, the effects of minimum wages are varied.

The effect of basic infrastructure delivery on welfare in rural and urban municipalities

Reads 24,542
Henk Gnade on 3 September 2013

Access to a comprehensive set of basic infrastructure services is essential to attain social development goals and ensure equal opportunity for all people to participate in a country’s economy. This article investigates whether the delivery of basic infrastructure has a significant positive effect on growth and development in South Africa and whether the effect is different for urban and rural municipalities. A complex picture emerges, necessitating care in making such infrastructure investment decisions.

The impact of youth employment incentives and wage subsidies: results of a trial run

Reads 23,994
Neil Rankin on 29 October 2013

The Employment Incentive Tax Bill offers tax subsidies to firms to employ new young workers. An evaluation of the impact of a wage subsidy voucher indicates that employment incentives increase the likelihood of young job-seekers being employed; they also increase the time young people remain employed. There is no evidence of older or existing workers being replaced. Such incentives are a relatively cheap and effective way to create employment, but are unlikely to create large numbers of jobs for young people.

Minimum wages and compliance in South African agriculture

Reads 23,052
Benjamin Stanwix on 22 January 2013

Average wages in agriculture have risen substantially in all provinces since the introduction of minimum wages in 2003 - the gap between the actual and the minimum wage has declined significantly. Compliance has been highest in the Western Cape and Gauteng, where average agricultural wages were close to or above the minimum wage even before it was introduced and wages have continued to rise thereafter. Although enforcement appears to have had a limited impact due in part to limited penalties, more effective inspection would be an important way to improve compliance.

Poverty may have declined, but women and female-headed households still suffer most

Reads 19,333
Michael Rogan on 6 May 2014

Amidst a decline in general poverty rates since 2000, women and people living in female-headed households still are significantly worse off. Women are up to 30% poorer than men on average. There is an even larger poverty gap between female- and male-headed households – a difference of as much as 100%, despite improved education, health and basic services. Better health, water and sanitation services, especially in rural areas, should narrow these gaps significantly.

Reducing inequality to promote growth: a proposed policy package

Reads 18,906
Kuben Naidoo on 30 January 2013

Any growth strategy for South Africa should include elements that address inequality explicitly. This article identifies reforms that are likely to support growth in the long term and proposes a policy framework to ensure a more equitable distribution of the dividends of economic growth. These relate to high-quality education for the poor, progressive taxation, a social safety net, anti-monopoly policies and labour market reforms to promote the employment of low-skilled people.

Informal settlements: poverty traps or ladders to work?

Reads 17,790
Ivan Turok on 12 August 2015

Informal urban settlements have a poor reputation as hotspots of social unrest, squalor and crime. Yet there is another side to them: as communities that are determined to lift themselves out of poverty via jobs in the city. In a society marked by severe social and spatial inequalities, these places may be useful vehicles for upward mobility. The ambivalence of government policy towards informal settlements needs to be replaced by a more positive approach.

How much do unions and bargaining councils elevate wages?

Reads 17,596
Carlene van der Westhuizen, Haroon Bhorat, Sumayya Goga on 28 May 2013

Past studies have found that trade union members earn substantially higher wages than non-union workers. New results suggest a much lower union wage premium (6-7%) when the impact of the size of the firm, the type of employment and non-wage benefits are properly taken into account. On the other hand, bargaining council agreements have a higher impact on wages than unions do, so that the cumulative wage premium of unions and bargaining councils averages more than 16%. For the public sector this can be as high as 22%.

The matric certificate is still valuable in the labour market

Reads 16,869
Clare Hofmeyr, Nicola Branson, Murray Leibbrandt, Cally Ardington, David Lam on 14 October 2013

Increasing levels of youth unemployment and learners’ poor performance at school have led to claims that the matric certificate no longer has much value in the labour market. However, the evidence does not support this claim. While the labour market conditions facing secondary school graduates have indeed worsened with time, the value of a matric certificate relative to that of grade 10 and 11 has remained positive both in terms of earnings and the likelihood of finding employment.

Do poor children really benefit from the child support grant?

Reads 15,149
Marisa Coetzee on 10 July 2014

The child support grant has been praised as one of the government’s most successful anti-poverty programmes. The rapid extension of the grant increases the importance of ascertaining its effectiveness: does the child support grant make any real difference to the lives of the millions of children who receive it? Using the 2008 NIDS data, a recently published study identifies a significant positive impact on recipient children’s health, nutrition and education as a result of receiving the grant.

Who creates jobs, who destroys jobs? Small firms, large firms and labour market rigidity

Reads 14,733
Andrew Kerr, Martin Wittenberg, Jairo Arrow on 15 January 2013

Firm-level data for the period 2005 to 2011 indicate that job creation and destruction rates in South Africa are only slightly lower than among OECD countries. Around 10% of existing jobs are destroyed each year, while the number of new jobs is around 9.5% of existing employment. Larger firms have higher rates of net job creation than small firms. The relatively high reallocation of employment across firms suggests lower rigidities in the South African labour market than is sometimes believed.

What is at issue in the minimum wage debate?

Reads 14,072
Jeremy Seekings, Nicoli Nattrass on 20 January 2015

The debate about implementing a national minimum wage obscures the key point, which is the level at which a national minimum wage should be set. A national minimum wage at a much higher level than the sectoral minimum wages currently set by the Employment Conditions Commission or agreed upon by unions under the Labour Relations Act is likely to result in job destruction, especially in the tradable sectors, with the result that poverty might be increased rather than reduced.

The Budget’s fiscal stance: The non-cyclical element may be a cause for concern

Reads 13,788
Wynnona Steyn on 16 April 2013

It is estimated that less than half of the present main budget deficit of 5.7% is explained by cyclical factors. The remainder reflects a non-cyclical, structural component of the deficit. The increase in the structural budget deficit since 2008 may constrain the ability of government to sustain its present revenue and expenditure policies. An in-depth understanding of the structural component of the fiscal position as opposed to its cyclical element is important for sustainable long-term government financing and planning.

Jobs growth from informal producers that supply the formal sector? The case for intermediaries

Reads 13,580
Marlese von Broembsen on 11 November 2012

Government’s vision for the development of informal business is that, with the right support, these enterprises will achieve formal status, contribute to economic growth and create jobs. However, few informal businesses produce goods for which the formal economy has any a demand. Moreover, informal producers are structurally prevented from accessing the formal economy without the facilitation of intermediaries. This implies the need for an enabling institutional and legal environment which (a) supports intermediaries that assist informal producers to access formal markets and (b) provides incentives for formal-sector retailers to enter into contracts with intermediaries on more equitable terms. BEE is a possible way to provide such incentives.

How much is inequality reduced by progressive taxation and government spending?

Reads 13,471
Ingrid Woolard, Rebecca Metz, Gabriela Inchauste, Nora Lustig, Mashekwa Maboshe, Catriona Purfield on 28 October 2015

Through progressive taxation and pro-poor social spending, the SA fiscal system reduces income inequality significantly. The extent of this reduction is larger than in twelve comparable middle-income countries measured similarly. Nevertheless, ‘final’ income (i.e. income after major taxes, government transfers and spending) remains more unequal than in comparator countries. While the fiscal system has an important role to play in reducing inequality, interventions to improve the distribution of wages, salaries and capital income are needed.

Wealth inequality – striking new insights from tax data

Reads 12,867
Anna Orthofer on 24 July 2016

Although South Africa is known for its extreme income inequality, the degree of wealth inequality is even greater. New tax and survey data suggest that 10% of the population own at least 90–95% of all assets, in contrast to their earning ‘only’ about 55–60% percent of all income. The finding supports the ongoing proposed reforms to close loopholes in estate taxation (Davis Tax Committee) and expand the coverage of pension systems (National Treasury).

Is informality being disallowed by government?

Reads 12,398
Andrew Charman on 11 November 2012

The South African government continues to pursue efforts to 'migrate' informal enterprises to the formal sector. This article examines the impact of regulations and law enforcement on the 'lived' economy of informal micro-entrepreneurs. Spatial analysis shows how the scope and distribution of informal economic activities are directly affected by regulation, land use planning and other controls. Such controls that effectively disallow informality are poor-unfriendly and harm livelihoods, self-employment and employment.

How structural inequality limits employment and self-employment in poor areas (or: Why South Africa’s informal sector is so small)

Reads 11,035
Kate Philip on 16 November 2012

Given South Africa’s high levels of unemployment, the relatively small size of the micro-enterprise sector is a conundrum. This article argues that structural inequality is the reason for this – in particular, inequality in the structure of the economy, the legacies of spatial inequality and the continued inequalities in human development. Their combined effect is to limit the scope for poor people to escape poverty via self-employment. This explains the limited extent and small range of informal employment.

Is Marikana a forerunner of national labour market instability and disruption?

Reads 10,871
Haroon Bhorat, Mornè Oosthuizen on 19 November 2012

The tragic events at Marikana raise the question whether the events and subsequent developments are indicative of a fundamental change in labour market relations and wage bargaining relationships in South Africa - and whether such patterns of behaviour are likely to spread beyond the mining sector. We identify five contributing factors that are specific to the mining sector. These relate to labour relations, public services and migrant labour. Since these factors do not characterise the rest of the economy, we conclude that a spreading of Marikana-type bargaining is unlikely.

How do the non-searching unemployed feel about their situation? On the definition of unemployment

Reads 10,654
Neil Lloyd, Murray Leibbrandt on 25 June 2013

New evidence suggests that non-searching unemployed people are significantly less satisfied with their lives than people who are not economically active. Indeed, the non-searching unemployed have hit rock bottom. Assuming that people do not freely choose an unsatisfactory state of living, a case is made that the non-searching unemployed – or ‘discouraged workers’ – are involuntarily unemployed and should be included in the definition and measurement of the labour force. Consequently, a case is made for the adoption of the broad measure of unemployment.

Industrial policy and unemployment: Can South Africa do better in labour-demanding manufacturing?

Reads 10,194
Anthony Black on 17 November 2012

In spite of policy statements prioritising labour-absorbing growth, de facto policy support has favoured heavy industry and been damaging for employment. Industrial policy should be less concerned with ‘beneficiation’ and technological upgrading and more concerned with promoting economy-wide efficiency. In the context of massive unemployment, this means tilting the playing field towards labour-absorbing growth to mobilise the huge potential of an under-employed and poorly-skilled workforce.

The significant decline in poverty in its many dimensions since 1993

Reads 9,749
Arden Finn, Murray Leibbrandt, Ingrid Woolard on 29 July 2013

The measurement of poverty should include dimensions of well-being that cannot be measured in monetary terms. Data on health, education and standards of living can be used to calculate a so-called Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI). Results suggest that both the prevalence and the intensity of multidimensional poverty fell significantly from 1993 to 2010. The decline in multidimensional poverty is much greater than the decline in poverty as measured in terms of income and/or expenditure. Better social services and infrastructure have played a large role.

The layout of the township economy: the surprising spatial distribution of informal township enterprises

Reads 9,675
Andrew Charman, Leif Petersen on 2 March 2015

A small-area census of micro-enterprises in Cape Town townships reveals that informal enterprises are located throughout the township, including in the residential areas. Three-quarters of the enterprises are located beyond the ‘high-street’. The most common enterprises (liquor and spaza shops) are not situated in what one would expect to be the prime business area with its considerable pedestrian traffic, but are in residential areas. Policies to promote the township economy need to come to terms with this reality.

How inclusive is economic growth in South Africa?

Reads 9,252
Frederick Fourie on 9 September 2014

While everybody seems to favour the pursuit of inclusive growth, this concept is rarely clearly defined in the policy debate. Inclusive growth is often confused or conflated with pro-poor growth or broad-based growth. A recent definition from researchers at the UNDP integrates the latter two concepts to include employment, poverty and inequality. A derivative Inclusiveness Index shows that South Africa has a very low degree of inclusiveness compared to other developing countries and that its growth since 1996 has not been inclusive.

Enforcement and compliance: the case of minimum wages and mandatory contracts for domestic workers

Reads 9,075
Taryn Dinkelman, Vimal Ranchhod, Clare Hofmeyr on 14 April 2014

What happens when a previously unregulated labour market is regulated? After the introduction of minimum wages and mandatory employment contracts for domestic workers, wages increased markedly while neither employment nor hours worked declined; some formalisation of working conditions also occurred. All these occurred despite a lack of monitoring and enforcement, suggesting that such actions (often costly) are not essential for regulation to have a significant impact on informal employment conditions, at least in the short run.

What does the ‘middle class’ mean in a polarised, developing country such as South Africa?

Reads 8,941
Ronelle Burger, Camren McAravey on 11 March 2014

In a developing, highly unequal country such as South Africa, it is unlikely that a definition of the middle class that is based on an income threshold will adequately capture the political and social meanings of being middle class. We propose a multi-dimensional definition, rooted in the ideas of empowerment and capability, and find that the ‘empowered middle class’ has expanded significantly since 1993. It also is much larger than when measured in terms of income.

How will a job-search subsidy create jobs?

Reads 8,919
Neil Rankin on 5 February 2013

A job-search subsidy has been proposed as a measure to help people find employment. At least three criteria need to be met to create new jobs for those who receive the subsidy. First, it needs to be used only to search for jobs or to remove the financial constraints that prevent people from searching for jobs; second, firms need to recruit through the channels which subsidy holders actually use to seek employment; and third, the relative cost of labour needs to fall.

How flexible is the South African labour market in the short and long run?

Reads 8,917
Dieter von Fintel on 31 August 2015

The inflexibility of the labour market is commonly used as a scapegoat to explain high unemployment. Yet new evidence shows that only in specific contexts (unionized workers in the short run) does wage rigidity restrain the ability of the labour market to absorb workers. In the long run, wages are much more flexible and structural factors explain more of the unemployment puzzle. The policy debate on unemployment and wage flexibility needs to take these subtleties into account.

How the old age pension is helping young people from rural areas find jobs

Reads 8,908
Cally Ardington, Clare Hofmeyr on 30 July 2014

It is important to know whether a social grant such as the old age pension eases financial constraints in rural areas, thereby allowing young men to migrate to urban areas for work – or whether these grants encourage idleness and dependency. This study finds no evidence of the latter. Instead, for young rural males there is an increase in their chances of migrating and finding work when a member of the household starts receiving the pension. Notably, these effects are only present for young men with at least a matric.

What caused the increase in unemployment in the late 1990s? Were education policies partly responsible?

Reads 8,858
Rulof Burger, Servaas van der Berg, Dieter von Fintel on 17 September 2013

In the late 1990s the Department of Education restricted the re-enrolment of over-aged learners and the number of times underperforming learners could repeat a grade. This was intended to reduce the number of learners in the school system, but may have contributed to a sudden increase in measured unemployment. Of the 2.3 million increase in the number of unemployed between 1997 and 2003, up to 900 000 may be due to unintended effects of these policies which brought hidden (youth) unemployment into the open.

The Jobs Fund and a youth wage subsidy: Design and implementation issues

Reads 8,816
Eddie Rakabe on 11 November 2012

As part of perpetual policy experimentation and search for that elusive ‘silver bullet’ to deal with unemployment, the South African government recently introduced the Jobs Fund and continues to mull over the idea of youth wage subsidies – vehemently opposed by trade unions. The success of these programs is highly dependent on effective design and administration. This article evaluates program design features against a number of factors.

The unemployment debate is too fragmented to address the problem

Reads 8,812
Frederick Fourie on 18 November 2012

The debate on unemployment is fragmented into at least three sub-discourses, i.e. those of macroeconomists, labour economists and poverty analysts. This results in inconclusive analyses and narrow, flawed proposals to address the problem. This fragmentation feeds into the policy field. Sustainable and consistent remedies for unemployment and poverty will require an integrated analysis that covers the formal sector, the informal economy and survivalist activities – and especially linkages and barriers between these segments.

Youth unemployment: what can we do in the short run?

Reads 8,645
Lauren Graham, Ariane De Lannoy on 12 December 2016

The challenge of youth unemployment is shaped by factors in both the labour market and the education system, alongside intricate community, household and individual-level issues. This complex mixture may make it a seemingly intractable problem. While long-term solutions need to be discussed and implemented, certain options warrant attention in the short to medium term. If these were efficiently addressed, we could begin to break down the barriers that prevent entry into the labour market for at least some young people.

How suitable is a ‘developmental state’ to tackle unemployment, inequality and poverty in South Africa?

Reads 8,490
Philippe Burger on 26 March 2014

The National Development Plan envisions the achievement of a ‘capable and developmental state’. Developmental states are usually associated with high economic growth. Such states in East Asia often are seen as models for SA to emulate. However, given the structure of the SA economy, state and society, a developmental state is not suitable, nor attainable. The concept of a social investment state is a better alternative, but it will need key institutional and policy reforms to work.

Poverty may have declined, but deprivation and poverty are still worst in the former homelands

Reads 8,304
Michael Noble, Wanga Zembe, Gemma Wright on 27 May 2014

Former homeland areas continue to have significantly higher levels of deprivation and poverty than the rest of South Africa. Of all the former homeland areas, the erstwhile Transkei in the Eastern Cape has the highest levels of deprivation (measured using the Index of Multiple Deprivation for 2011) as well as income poverty. Indeed, the deprivation gap between former homelands and the rest of South Africa has not declined in the period 2001 to 2011.

Is the middle class becoming better off? Two perspectives

Reads 8,032
Justin Visagie on 15 July 2013

Two very different pictures emerge when one compares income changes of the relatively affluent ‘middle class’ with those of people in the literal middle of the income spectrum. In the affluent middle there has been significant racial transformation and growth of the ‘black middle class’. However, households in the actual middle of the income spectrum have experienced the lowest income growth of all groups since 1993. Both perspectives are crucial for the pursuit of an equitable path of development.

Cape Town’s trade in wild medicines: ecological threat or essential livelihood resource?

Reads 7,760
Leif Petersen on 29 January 2014

Cape Town is the urban centrepiece of a globally unique and highly diverse natural environment which should take priority in conservation management. But these biological assets also directly serve a local market of over 5 100 traditional healers and herbalists. The author discusses this important informal economy, business and cultural activity in the face of the broadening threats to conservation in the region, and the growing potential tension this presents in terms of policy and management.

The National Development Plan and exports as a catalyst to generate employment growth: Can it work?

Reads 7,349
Philippe Burger on 20 November 2012

Small and medium-sized firms hold the potential to absorb most of the unemployed in South Africa. In this the NDP may be correct. However, the NDP may not be correct in arguing that exports can be the main catalyst of the growth the country needs to address poverty and employment. Several factors hinder such a strategy. A more domestically-focused policy aimed at production (and services) for local consumption might bear more fruit.

Between the devil and the deep blue sea? The financing of higher education

Reads 7,080
Philippe Burger on 22 September 2016

Higher-than-inflation increases in student fees since 2009 often are blamed on declining government subsidies to universities. This is not entirely correct, if one considers real per-student subsidies. Fee increases resulted mainly from cost pressures faced by universities due to growing student numbers and a weakening rand. These pressures will not disappear. Eliminating government wastage is not a durable solution and difficult choices cannot be avoided. So, who should pay for increasing costs, students or government – or which combination of these?

How did hunger levels in the former homelands catch up with the rest of South Africa? A hundred years after the Land Act of 1913

Reads 6,894
Dieter von Fintel, Louw Pienaar on 14 January 2014

A century after the Land Act of 1913, and 20 years after the abolition of homelands, differences in poverty persist between the former homeland areas and the rest of South Africa. However, remarkably, hunger gaps between the former homelands and other regions have been eliminated in the post-apartheid era. The main cause has been the disproportionately high number of persons eligible for social grants in the former homelands, rather than increased food production or higher labour market incomes due to land reform.

The national minimum wage debate: looking beyond a narrow focus on labour markets

Reads 6,833
Gilad Isaacs, Ben Fine on 17 March 2015

Most contributions to the debate on a national minimum wage adopt a narrow view of labour markets and accept that the structure of the economy will remain essentially as it is. We question both of these assumptions. Further, we argue that a national minimum wage, at a level to be determined through careful research, must be part of a well-designed package of longer-term policy reforms that look beyond the labour market and support employment growth through investment.

The original criticisms of the Adcorp Employment Index (February 2012)

Reads 6,617
Andrew Kerr, Martin Wittenberg on 20 February 2013

Adcorp’s estimated unemployment rate is so low that it disposes of the unemployment crisis. But Adcorp uses a crude currency-demand method to estimate the size of the unrecorded economy, despite researchers’ strong criticism of this method. To estimate informal sector employment, Adcorp mixes up definitions of informal employment and the unrecorded economy and guesses at the labour intensity of the unrecorded economy. They also guess at the number of illegal immigrants. Moreover, Adcorp’s estimates have no statistical precision. Its figures are neither reliable nor credible.

Unlocking the growth and employment potential of business in the margins

Reads 6,457
Eddie Rakabe on 13 August 2013

Marginalised businesses provide livelihood and income opportunities for a large section of the population. However, these businesses are not able to capture growth opportunities because of several constraints; they continue to operate on the periphery of the mainstream economy. Yet they could become a major source of employment growth. Efforts to unlock this potential must concentrate on exploiting value chains and making government policy more responsive to the unique needs and challenges of marginalised businesses.

Redistribution is part of the toolkit to promote growth

Reads 6,360
Andrew Donaldson on 7 October 2014

A recent IMF study of several countries provides robust evidence that a high level of income inequality weakens the prospects of sustained economic growth and reduces the duration of growth spells. Redistributive steps, by contrast, do not have a noticeable negative effect on growth. Therefore, a reduction in inequality that is achieved through redistributive steps could have a net pro-growth effect. The policy challenge for South Africa is to find the best policy mix to achieve that.

More financial aid is not the best way to close the racial gap in tertiary education

Reads 6,313
David Lam, Cally Ardington, Nicola Branson, Murray Leibbrandt on 18 June 2014

South Africa’s large racial gap in enrolment in tertiary education can be attributed to the widely varying quality of primary and secondary education rather than to the low incomes of most black and coloured households. Thus, easing credit constraints for prospective tertiary students via increased financial aid is expected to have a limited impact on African and coloured enrolment. Instead, policymakers should focus on improving educational quality at schools attended by children from low-income households.

Enabling growth: redistribution priorities for South Africa

Reads 5,945
Andrew Donaldson on 12 November 2014

If the National Development Plan is to be effectively implemented, we need clarity about the mechanisms through which growth and redistribution can be jointly advanced. Priorities include social security reform and quality improvements in social services, urban development, housing and public-transport investment. Expanding employment opportunities is the most pressing challenge, requiring policies that might include: support for labour-intensive industry and agriculture, small enterprise and informal sector development, well-targeted skills programmes, and wage or employment subsidies. Recognising the complementarity between redistributive and growth-enhancing measures is essential.

How effective is VAT zero rating as a pro-poor policy?

Reads 5,566
Ada Jansen, Estian Calitz on 20 July 2015

In most countries with VAT, certain goods and services are zero rated to alleviate the tax burden on the poor. However, this may not be the most cost-effective way of helping the poor. We investigate the appropriateness of the products currently zero rated and the impact of this on the poor, the implications for tax revenue were it to be removed, and the contribution to poverty relief of zero rating compared to targeted social transfers.

Technology, labour power and labour’s declining income share in post-apartheid South Africa

Reads 5,461
Philippe Burger on 17 February 2015

The share of labour in aggregate income in South Africa has declined significantly since 1993, while that of capital has increased. Concurrently, real wages have increased slower than productivity. This article argues that financialisation and the more aggressive returns-oriented investment strategies applied by large, global investment institutions have translated into investors requiring higher rates of return on capital. This, in turn, has led to the increased adoption of capital-augmenting, labour-saving technology that has reduced labour’s share of total income – with important consequences for income distribution.

Should agriculture receive greater support as part of an inclusive growth strategy?

Reads 5,428
Anthony Black, Beatrice Conradie, Hein Gerwel on 26 November 2014

In developing countries, agricultural growth is generally employment intensive and pro-poor but this sector in South Africa has been subject to a drastic decline in tariffs, pricing, infrastructure and other forms of support. This has not been compensated for by alternative measures such as expenditure aimed at facilitating small-scale agriculture and effective land reform. The result has been poor economic performance and rapidly declining employment in commercial agriculture with little sign of revival in the small-scale sector.

The Budget: both the fiscal stance and ‘structural stance’ are sound

Reads 5,375
Kuben Naidoo on 25 March 2013

Many economists have argued that the government’s fiscal stance in the recent budget is verging on the risky. This article argues that the fiscal stance is both correct and prudent. In addition, the article puts the budget in a broader developmental context, highlighting its contribution to long-term growth and development and to tackling poverty and inequality.

Tax(i)ing the poor? Implications of our high commuting costs

Reads 5,191
Andrew Kerr on 20 October 2015

The time and monetary costs of commuting are extremely high and have increased over the last 20 years. They imply a substantial ‘tax’ on the wages of those who commute to work, notably on the users of public transport. Commuters increasingly use private vehicles and minibus taxis today compared to 1993. The government’s public transport subsidies seem to benefit those in the (lower) middle of the income distribution rather than low-income workers.

Do government spending and taxation really reduce inequality, or do we need more thorough measurements? A response to the World Bank researchers

Reads 5,003
Patrick Bond on 10 February 2016

World Bank staff and consultants claim that South Africa’s progressive taxation and pro-poor social spending reduce the Gini inequality coefficient from 0.77 to 0.59. But their data and methodology are deficient: their research ignores large areas of government spending and taxation that may significantly increase inequality. Thus their conclusion that fiscal policy is redistributive is overhasty and unfounded – whilst it is prone to be used, or misused, to promote a budget-cutting political agenda.

What will housing megaprojects do to our cities?

Reads 4,988
Ivan Turok on 10 November 2015

The building of large numbers of housing units in isolated greenfield locations has had detrimental side effects on our cities over the last two decades. Yet a series of new megaprojects, designed to accelerate the delivery of housing, is now on the cards. Because they are to be built on cheap peripheral land, these schemes threaten to reinforce urban fragmentation, inefficiency and exclusion.

Domestic abuse of children severely reduces their educational achievement

Reads 4,653
Duncan Pieterse on 22 April 2015

Although many children are maltreated at home, we know little about the effects of abuse on long-term child development. This article explores the association between different ways in which children are maltreated and two educational outcomes (numeracy test scores and dropout). Children who are physically maltreated (e.g. hit hard) regularly suffer severe adverse consequences in terms of their numeracy test scores and probability of dropout – and hence their chances of employment and higher earnings.

A growing informal sector: evidence from an enterprise survey in Delft

Reads 4,592
Andrew Charman, Leif Petersen on 1 March 2016

Using a small-area census approach, this article reports on changes in informal micro-enterprise activity in the Cape township of Delft between 2010 and 2015. The number of micro-enterprises has doubled (from 879 to 1798) in five years, with growth recorded in almost all sectors (notably take-away food and street trade). The increase in the total is contrary to the official national trend. The prevalence of informal enterprises in residential areas, compared to those in the high street, has not changed.

The inequality of space: what to do?

Reads 4,528
Pippa Green on 15 December 2015

South Africa is the most unequal country in the world in terms of people’s income. But, two decades after apartheid’s demise, why has our urban and rural geography changed so little – and how does this reinforce inequality? This was the question at the centre of a recent REDI workshop on spatial inequality that brought together researchers, policymakers, and planners working in both urban and rural spaces.

Unpacking labour’s declining income share: manufacturing, mining and growing inequality

Reads 4,226
Philippe Burger on 3 February 2015

While the share of capital increased, labour’s share of total income earned in South Africa fell significantly during the first two decades after 1994. These trends could contribute to a deterioration of income inequality, given that the ownership of capital – and thus the income from capital – is concentrated in fewer individuals than is the case with salaries and wages. This article explores labour’s falling share, with particular reference to the manufacturing and mining sectors.

Do low-paid workers’ wage increases raise unemployment – and is this relevant for the minimum wage debate?

Reads 4,176
Dieter von Fintel on 30 March 2016

Increasing the wages of workers in the bottom half of the wage distribution contributes less to regional unemployment than increasing the wages of better-paid workers. The wages of the worst-paid – who live in regions of low union and large-firm concentration – play almost no role in unemployment. Collective bargaining arrangements appear to explain these differences. This phenomenon may soften the negative impact of a national minimum wage on employment in the short run, but might make matters worse in the longer run.

Labour and unemployment in South Africa: towards a ‘grand bargain’

Reads 4,033
Ravi Kanbur on 7 October 2015

The problematics of the situation in South Africa are clear: high unemployment, high inequality and low growth, combined with a lack of consensus on what to do. It might be more fruitful to think in ‘grand bargain’ terms: a package of policies that are intended to balance opposing perspectives whose differences cannot be resolved through technical debate – and to set short-term political-economic imperatives against the longer time horizon needed for policy interventions to address deep structural legacies

A national minimum wage: moving the debate forward?

Reads 4,000
Frederick Fourie, Pippa Green on 29 June 2015

The public debate on a national minimum wage sometimes appears to occur in different universes. Two recent contributions to Econ3x3 may help to take the debate forward. This article analyses and contrasts these views and finds that, though they emphasise (and underplay) different aspects, the differences may not be insurmountable – especially once one recognises that the proposals apply to different time frames. [A shorter version of this article appeared as an op-ed article in Business Day on 25 June 2015. See references.]

Predicting the impact of a national minimum wage: are the general equilibrium models up to the task?

Reads 3,769
Gilad Isaacs, Servaas Storm on 11 August 2016

This article analyses whether computable general equilibrium (CGE) models are suitable for projecting the likely consequences of implementing a national minimum wage. Referring to modelling exercises undertaken by the National Treasury and the Development Policy Research Unit (DPRU), it shows that their projection of a strongly negative impact on employment and other macroeconomic indicators is a direct result of the architecture and assumptions of these models. By design these models preclude alternative outcomes; this renders them rather unsuitable as guides to policymaking.

Youth unemployment: can labour-market intermediaries help?

Reads 3,759
Andre Kraak on 17 September 2015

Labour-market intermediaries can make a significant contribution to the reduction of youth unemployment.They recognise that the demand for labour is not fixed. By reshaping the attributes and broader workplace skills of the young jobseeker, labour market intermediaries can help overcome employers’ reticence to employing first-time workers. Such interventions, although small in scale, may be more successful than larger public works schemes of government. The potential positive impact of such intermediaries is demonstrated with international examples.

Have real wages fallen behind or increased out of line with productivity? A macroeconomic perspective

Reads 3,539
Philippe Burger on 20 January 2016

Macroeconomic data on wages and productivity suggest that there has not been any constant tendency for real wages either to fall behind or increase out of line with increases in productivity. Upward shifts have affected real wages sporadically, but have subsequently been offset by downward shifts, leaving a one-to-one long-run relationship between real wages and productivity. This is contrary to the conventional wisdom in both the labour union and business worlds.

A foot in the door: are NGOs effective as workplace intermediaries in the youth labour market?

Reads 3,312
Veerle Dieltiens on 28 September 2015

It has been argued that properly focused workplace intermediaries can reshape the labour market to become more youth friendly. Case studies of NGO intermediaries in South Africa offer some optimism but also caution in this regard. Although the intermediaries were able to match unemployed youth to jobs, smooth the transition to work and even positively influence employers’ reticence, they are small in scale and costs are high – and they have yet to broker larger pacts to add more jobs.

Cooperatives: has the dream become a nightmare?

Reads 3,236
Johannes Wessels on 23 June 2016

Over the past 15 years Government has promoted cooperatives at national and provincial levels with the aim of enabling small producers to tap into mainstream economic activities. Tens of thousands of cooperatives were formed in processes with officials’ performance appraisals based on the number of new cooperatives being formed. A 2014 study in the Free State indicates a very low survival rate of cooperatives and little evidence of job creation. This accords with earlier findings of an EU-funded study at the national level.

How accurate is our migration data?

Reads 2,745
Susan Ziehl on 7 June 2016

The reliability of Census data on demography and migration comes under attack periodically. This article sheds light on the reliability of survey results with respect to migration into the Western Cape. Census data and two independent studies are compared and the convergence or divergence of the findings assessed. There is greater consistency for more aggregate-level measures than for disaggregated measures (whether by geographical unit or by race). Such comparisons of surveys are important for gauging the reliability of our knowledge of migration.

Day labourers and the role of foreign migrants: for better or for worse?

Reads 2,699
Derick Blaauw, Anmar Pretorius, Rinie Schenck on 17 May 2016

Foreign migrants often enter informal employment as day labourers. They compete with South Africans for jobs in this curb-side labour market. Three surveys of day labourers working in Tshwane between 2004 and 2015 reveal two important tendencies. First, the foreign-migrant component has increased from 12% to just over 55% in 11 years. Secondly, the wages and the level of poverty of both foreign and South African day labourers have worsened in the same period.

REDI3x3 conference: Policies for inclusive growth

Reads 2,478
Murray Leibbrandt, Pippa Green on 15 February 2017

The REDI3x3 research project has completed most of its research at a time when unemployment, poverty and inequality is intense. With growth at just 0.5%, government needs to become more innovative in fixing the social policies that hamper progress. It should draw on all the research evidence to find ways to transform the structure of the economy without inhibiting growth. Addressing education, low labour intensity, the informal sector and the spatial legacies of apartheid can make a real difference.

Factors contributing to the demise of informal enterprises: evidence from a Cape township

Reads 2,423
Andrew Hartnack, Rory Liedeman on 16 January 2017

The reasons for the closure of fairly well-established informal enterprises are varied. Between 2010 and 2015, in the Cape Flats township of Delft South, a key factor was the failure to respond adequately to the more entrepreneurial business model of foreign traders and the strict enforcement of unfavourable liquor trading policies. Still, household misfortunes and broader socio-cultural dynamics also played crucial roles. A richer understanding of why enterprises shut down should inform policy to foster the sustainability of informal enterprises.

What makes the rand so volatile: global or home-made factors?

Reads 2,164
Nasha Mavee, Axel Schimmelpfennig on 30 March 2017

Exchange-rate volatility can complicate decisions concerning trade and investment and constrain a country’s economic growth. Understanding what contributes to a currency’s volatility is an important first step in assessing whether economic policy can reduce this volatility. For South Africa, changes in global commodity prices and financial-market risk perceptions drive most of the rand’s volatility. However, local political uncertainty also emerges as a significant source of volatility. More policy and political predictability could help to smooth the rand’s volatility.

A job in the informal sector reduces poverty about as much as a job in the formal sector

Reads 2,158
Paul Cichello, Michael Rogan on 30 May 2017

In the aggregate, earnings from jobs in the informal sector play a small role in reducing national poverty rates, especially because there are relatively few informal-sector jobs. However, if we compare on a per-job basis, the poverty reduction associated with one informal-sector job is generally between 50 to 100% of the poverty reduction associated with one formal-sector job. Growth in the number of jobs in the informal sector would be a sensible component of any plan to reduce poverty.

The employability of higher education graduates: are qualifications enough?

Reads 1,949
Elza Lourens, Magda Fourie-Malherbe on 21 November 2016

The transition from higher education to employment is a challenge, considering persistent graduate un- and underemployment. Qualifications are not enough. Graduates (should) develop a ‘workplace identity’ that improves their chances of being employed. An empirical study shows that achieving employability frequently involves several labour-market states in which personal attributes are utilised but also developed. Most graduates are not prepared for this arduous journey, something both higher education institutions and graduates should attend to.

The nuts and bolts of micro-manufacturing in the township - a Cape Town case study

Reads 1,875
Leif Petersen, Andrew Charman, Paul Court on 6 September 2016

The informal sector is frequently viewed as comprising only street traders. However, micro-manufacturing of various types constitutes a small but significant component. A Cape Town case study of informal metalwork manufacturers, retailers, suppliers and customers shows that township metalworker enterprises and supply chains bring about important opportunities for promoting value adding, skills development and employment. Policy interventions that would help them grow include the provision of more suitable manufacturing and trading spaces as well as services such as electricity.

Could informal enterprises stimulate township economies? A study of two Midrand townships

Reads 1,816
Eddie Rakabe on 28 February 2017

Informal enterprises are perceived to lack the necessary business and economic fundamentals to stimulate their local economies. However, informal enterprises are not homogenous. In a study of non-retail informal enterprises, we distinguish between Traditional Informal Enterprises (TIEs) and Modernising Informal Enterprises (MIEs) and assess whether Ivory Park and Kaalfontein townships have MIEs to catalyse the local economies. We find that 40% of the non-retail enterprises have a modernising orientation, but that the majority are predominantly traditional.

Innovative joint ventures can boost agricultural production and promote agrarian transformation

Reads 1,747
Andre Steenkamp, Duncan Pieterse, James Rycroft on 18 April 2017

Growing agriculture can reduce poverty, create economic opportunities in rural and peri-urban areas, and boost employment, particularly for semi- and unskilled workers. We review several successful joint ventures across South Africa which comprise a range of partnerships between smallholders, commercial farmers, agribusinesses, industry associations and government. Many of these partnerships have generated significant returns and transformational benefits. Well-designed joint ventures can complement existing government initiatives to drive more rapid agrarian transformation and increase production.

Are internal migrants more likely to be unemployed than locally born residents?

Reads 1,574
Susan Ziehl on 11 October 2016

This article compares the labour-market status of migrants and locally born residents. The focus is on migration into Cape Town and the Western Cape from elsewhere in South Africa. Survey and census data show that migrants were more likely to be unemployed than residents in 2001 and 2011. However, in 2011 migrants were also more likely to be employed and to be economically active (working or wishing to work) than locally born residents. They are also more likely to be self-employed than non-migrants.

‘You can’t bite the hand that feeds you’: Contracts between SME suppliers and the large supermarkets

Reads 1,430
Marlese von Broembsen on 9 May 2017

This article examines the implications of the contracts between the four main South African supermarkets and their SME suppliers. Supermarkets’ procurement practices, in particular their practice of charging suppliers a substantial ‘rebate commission’ as well as requiring suppliers to comply with private, rather than public, production and health standards, have a significant impact on the ability of new SME suppliers to enter the market and to create jobs. This has important policy implications.

Technology and minimum wages are likely to change the mix of capital and labour in industry

Reads 1,340
Friedrich Kreuser, Neil Rankin on 20 June 2017

While technology is making capital cheaper, policies like the national minimum wage will make labour more expensive. What does this mean for the choices firms make in terms of labour and capital inputs? This research shows that higher prices for labour will result in lower demand for labour, making job creation more difficult. Low-skilled and high-skilled labour are substitutes – higher wages for low-skilled workers will encourage firms to employ more high-skilled workers and become more skill intensive.

Land and property rights: 'title deeds as usual' won’t work

Reads 1,106
Rosalie Kingwill on 22 August 2017

Renewed emphasis in policy discourses on systematic land titling to solve insecure tenure in South Africa is understandable. A staggering two thirds of the citizenry hold off-register land rights. Converting these rights to title deeds may seem self-evident, but our research reveals major stumbling blocks. For a system of land records to succeed, its design must take into account well understood and familiar local and customary processes for holding, using and transmitting land in urban and rural areas.

Are we measuring poverty and inequality correctly? Comparing earnings using tax and survey data

Reads 1,075
Martin Wittenberg on 3 October 2017

Calculating the earnings Gini coefficient with survey data from the Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) may lead to an underestimation of inequality. When one compares earnings in the tax assessments data to those in the QLFS, it appears that the earnings of employees in the QLFS are underreported. Benefits and annual bonuses contribute substantially to the gap. In the case of self-employment incomes, the top earnings in the QLFS are also underreported, but the tax data seems to miss many mid- and low-income earners.

The Transkei Wild Coast: still waiting for something to happen

Reads 1,023
Mike Coleman, Mike Kenyon on 11 July 2017

The Wild Coast, in the former Transkei Bantustan, is characterised by natural beauty and great poverty. Since 1994 rural land administration has collapsed, land tenure has not been reformed, a succession of coastal development plans have been proposed but not implemented – and communities have become disillusioned. The few tourist-related developments that have taken root have done so despite the general collapse of rural governance and are due largely to the determination of local developers and their community partners

The former Transkei and Ciskei homelands are still poor, but is there an emerging dynamism?

Reads 812
Michael Aliber on 2 August 2017

The dominant perspective on the economic situation of the former homelands is that long-term, deliberate neglect has left a durable legacy of poverty and stagnation. While this may be largely correct, there is also evidence to suggest that the former homelands are dynamic. This article presents some evidence on population, employment and unemployment, in particular through a focus on the evolving nature of the linkages between former homeland towns and their rural environs.

Reservation wages found in surveys can be very misleading

Reads 541
Rulof Burger, Patrizio Piraino, Asmus Zoch on 12 September 2017

The responses of unemployed workers to the typical survey question about their ‘lowest acceptable wages’ are susceptible to error and overestimation – particularly for people in persistent joblessness. Studies using only the responses to the standard question may incorrectly conclude that vulnerable workers are unemployed because they tend to price themselves out of employment – while in fact their responses are just unreliable and distorted indications of their true reservation wages. Alternative questions would give more reliable results.

Poor land governance stifles rural development and has knock-on effects in urban areas

Reads 410
Pippa Green, Murray Leibbrandt on 23 November 2017

Several researchers in the REDI3x3 project focused on poverty in rural areas in the Eastern Cape, which contains two former apartheid homelands, the Ciskei and the Transkei. This article analyses the main messages of this research, highlighting the negative impact of poor land governance and uncertainty of tenure; knock-on effects are apparent in areas like Hout Bay and Marikana. [An edited version of this article appeared in Business Day on 10 November 2017. See references.]