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Why has unemployment risen in the New South Africa?

  • Abhijit Banerjee
  • Sebastian Galiani
  • Jim Levinsohn
  • Zo� McLaren
  • Ingrid Woolard

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.

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Article provided by The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development in its journal Economics of Transition.

Volume (Year): 16 (2008)
Issue (Month): 4 (October)
Pages: 715-740

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  1. Lawrence F. Katz & Kevin M. Murphy, 1991. "Changes in Relative Wages, 1963-1987: Supply and Demand Factors," NBER Working Papers 3927, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. T. Paul Schultz & Germano Mwabu, 1998. "Labor unions and the distribution of wages and employment in South Africa," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 51(4), pages 680-703, July.
  3. Geeta Kingdon & John Knight, 2001. "Unemployment in South Africa: the nature of the beast," Economics Series Working Papers WPS/2001-15, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Butcher, Kristin F. & Rouse, Cecilia Elena, 2001. "Wage effects of unions and industrial councils in South Africa," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2520, The World Bank.
  8. Peter G. Moll, 1993. "Black South African unions: Relative wage and inequality effects in international perspective," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 46(2), pages 245-261, January.
  9. 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.
  10. 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, 06.
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