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