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Revisiting South African Employment Trends In The 1990s


  • Miriam Altman


This article revisits South African employment trends recorded since 1995. In particular, it investigates whether the job losses and gains recorded by the October Household Survey jobs in the mid-1990s reflect the reality. This is done by comparing the different official data sets, and by exploring alternative sources of information for three sectors that substantially influenced this trend, namely formal agriculture, mining, and community, social and personal services. Potential inconsistencies within the October Household data are assessed, particularly in relation to the distribution of employees across formal and informal sectors and the categorisation of unpaid family workers. The implications of possible changes to the employment trend from 1995-2006 are considered. This article finds that the evidence is strong enough to call into question published employment trends. According to the October Household Survey, formal employment fell by 1.4 million between 1995 and 1997. The OHS and Labour Force Survey shows that formal employment then grew by 1.9 million between 1997 and 2006. According to the revised figures presented in this paper, 73,000 to 530,000 formal jobs were lost between 1995 and 1997 and 1.4 million net new jobs were created between 1997 and 2006. It is therefore possible that the plummeting and "recovery" of employment in the 1990s were both considerably less dramatic than that reflected in the official statistics. Further research and investigation would be required to validate these trends. Copyright (c) 2008 The Author. Journal compilation (c) 2008 Economic Society of South Africa.

Suggested Citation

  • Miriam Altman, 2008. "Revisiting South African Employment Trends In The 1990s," South African Journal of Economics, Economic Society of South Africa, vol. 76(s2), pages 126-147, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:sajeco:v:76:y:2008:i:s2:p:s126-s147

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Dani Rodrik, 2008. "Understanding South Africa's economic puzzles ," The Economics of Transition, The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, vol. 16(4), pages 769-797, October.
    2. Haroon Bhorat, 2004. "Labour Market Challenges In The Post-Apartheid South Africa," South African Journal of Economics, Economic Society of South Africa, vol. 72(5), pages 940-977, December.
    3. Robert Pollin & Gerald Epstein & James Heintz & Léonce Ndikumana, 2006. "An Employment-targeted Economic Programme for South Africa," Country Study 1, International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth.
    4. Sebastian Galliani & James Levinsohn & Ingrid Woolard, 2006. "Why Has Unemployment Risen in the New South Africa?," CID Working Papers 134, Center for International Development at Harvard University.
    5. Morné Oosthuizen, 2006. "The Post-Apartheid Labour Market: 1995-2004," Working Papers 06103, University of Cape Town, Development Policy Research Unit.
    6. H. Bhorat & J. Hodge, 1999. "Decomposing Shifts in Labour Demand in South Africa," South African Journal of Economics, Economic Society of South Africa, vol. 67(3), pages 155-168, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. Rankin Neil & Burger Rulof & Kreuser Friedrich, 2015. "The elasticity of substitution and labour-displacing technical change in post-apartheid South Africa," WIDER Working Paper Series 101, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    2. Rulof P. Burger & Francis J. Teal, 2014. "The effect of schooling on worker productivity: Evidence from a South African industry panel," Working Papers 04/2014, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
    3. Frederick C.v.N. Fourie, 2011. "The South African unemployment debate: three worlds, three discourses?," SALDRU Working Papers 63, Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit, University of Cape Town.

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