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Why has unemployment risen in the New South Africa?

Author

Listed:
  • Abhijit Banerjee
  • Sebastian Galiani
  • Jim Levinsohn
  • Zoë McLaren
  • Ingrid Woolard

Abstract

We document the rise in unemployment in South Africa since the transition in 1994. We describe how changes in labour supply interacted with stagnant labour demand to produce unemployment rates that peaked between 2001 and 2003. Meanwhile, compositional changes in employment at the sectoral level widened the gap between the skill-level of the employed and the unemployed. Using nationally representative panel data, we show that stable unemployment rates mask high individual-level transition rates in labour market status. Our analysis highlights several key constraints to addressing unemployment in South Africa. We conclude that unemployment is near equilibrium levels and is unlikely to self-correct without policy intervention. Copyright (c) 2008 The Authors. Journal compilation (c) 2008 The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

Suggested Citation

  • Abhijit Banerjee & Sebastian Galiani & Jim Levinsohn & Zoë McLaren & Ingrid Woolard, 2008. "Why has unemployment risen in the New South Africa?," The Economics of Transition, The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, vol. 16(4), pages 715-740, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:etrans:v:16:y:2008:i:4:p:715-740
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. T. Paul Schultz & Germano Mwabu, 1998. "Labor Unions and the Distribution of Wages and Employment in South Africa," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 51(4), pages 680-703, July.
    2. Stephan Klasen & Ingrid Woolard, 1999. "Levels, trends and consistency of employment and unemployment figures in South Africa," Development Southern Africa, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 16(1), pages 3-35.
    3. H. Bhorat, 1999. "The October Household Survey, Unemployment and the Informal Sector: A Note," South African Journal of Economics, Economic Society of South Africa, vol. 67(2), pages 143-146, June.
    4. Lawrence F. Katz & Kevin M. Murphy, 1992. "Changes in Relative Wages, 1963–1987: Supply and Demand Factors," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 107(1), pages 35-78.
    5. Kingdon, Geeta Gandhi & Knight, John, 2004. "Unemployment in South Africa: The Nature of the Beast," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 32(3), pages 391-408, March.
    6. Vimal Ranchhod, 2009. "Household responses to adverse income shocks: Pensioner out-migration and mortality in South Africa," Working Papers 133, Economic Research Southern Africa.
    7. Marianne Bertrand & Sendhil Mullainathan & Douglas Miller, 2003. "Public Policy and Extended Families: Evidence from Pensions in South Africa," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 17(1), pages 27-50, June.
    8. Murray Leibbrandt & James Levinsohn & Justin McCrary, 2005. "Incomes in South Africa since the fall of Apartheid," Working Papers 536, Research Seminar in International Economics, University of Michigan.
    9. Rulof Burger & Derek Yu, 2006. "Wage trends in post-apartheid South Africa: Constructing an earnings series from household survey data," Working Papers 10/2006, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
    10. Kristin F. Butcher & Cecilia Elena Rouse, 2001. "Wage Effects of Unions and Industrial Councils in South Africa," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 54(2), pages 349-374, January.
    11. P. G. Moll, 1993. "Black South African Unions: Relative Wage Effects in International Perspective," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 46(2), pages 245-261, January.
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    JEL classification:

    • J18 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Public Policy

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