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The HIV|AIDS pandemic in South Africa: sectoral impacts and unemployment


  • Channing Arndt

    (Department of Agricultural Economics, Purdue University, USA)

  • Jeffrey D. Lewis

    (The World Bank, Washington DC, USA)


South Africa is currently confronting an HIV|AIDS crisis. HIV prevalence in the population is currently estimated at about 13 per cent with that number projected to increase over the next five years or so. Given the massive scale of the problem and the concentration of effects on adults of prime working age, the pandemic is expected to sharply influence a host of economic and non-economic variables. While the pandemic will certainly influence the rate of economic growth, structural changes are also likely to be one of the primary economic hallmarks of the AIDS pandemic. This paper builds on the work of Arndt and Lewis (2000) who estimated the aggregate macroeconomic impacts of the HIV|AIDS pandemic in South Africa using a computable general equilibrium (CGE) approach. They found that, despite dramatically lower rates of growth of the unskilled labor pool relative to the 'no AIDS' trend, estimated unemployment rates for unskilled labor in their base 'AIDS' scenario increased absolutely over most of the upcoming decade and are essentially the same (slightly higher in fact) as the rates estimated for a fictional 'no AIDS' scenario. In this paper, we seek to further investigate the interactions between unemployment and AIDS using the basic modeling approach set forth in Arndt and Lewis. Before projecting the impacts of the pandemic on unemployment, recently compiled historical data on employment, unemployment, and remuneration are presented. The unemployment problem is, rather, an employment problem; and it is concentrated primarily in the unskilled and semi-skilled labour category. Job creation performance over the past three decades in this category has been dismal with total employment (formal sector and informal sector) of unskilled and semi-skilled labourers in 1999 at only 92 per cent of the level present in 1970. In a country with an extraordinarily complex historical legacy such as South Africa, it is impossible to attribute this disastrous job creation performance to any single factor. Nevertheless, large differences in remuneration trends across labor classes and standard economic theory point to these trends as major contributing factors. By 1999, real remuneration per unskilled and semi-skilled worker had grown to 250 per cent of the 1970 level while remuneration for other categories had remained essentially flat. Based on these data, the neoclassical conclusion that unskilled and semi-skilled labor has been systematically pricing itself out of the market seems practically unavoidable. Employment growth has, given slow economic growth rates, gone hand in hand with wage moderation as in the highly skilled and skilled segments. In contrast, employment compression has been associated with substantial real remuneration growth as in the unskilled and semi-skilled segment. With this historical background in mind, we turn to examining the interactions between the AIDS pandemic and unemployment using a CGE approach. In the model, the unskilled and semi-skilled wage is fixed relative to the producer price index. As a result, employment levels by activity are the equilibrating variables. We find that, even though the pandemic is projected to drive growth rates in the supply of unskilled and semi-skilled labour to around zero, our analysis indicates that the pandemic will also depress labour demand leaving the unemployment rate, in our base 'AIDS' scenario, essentially unchanged compared with a fictional 'no AIDS' scenario. The pandemic depresses labour demand through three effects. Declines in the rate of overall economic growth. Pronounced declines in sectors that supply investment commodities, particularly the Construction and Equipment sectors. These two sectors happen to use unskilled and semi-skilled labour intensively and together account for a significant share (16.3 per cent) of total payments to this category of labour. Beyond this investment demand effect (brought on by reduced savings), AIDS induced morbidity effects on unskilled and semi-skilled workers tend to depress output relatively more in sectors that use unskilled and semi-skilled labour intensively with further negative implications for employment. Countering these three effects will be key to palliating the negative economic consequences of the pandemic and reducing unemployment rates. To reduce the unemployment problem, South Africa must have rapid overall economic growth ideally with sectors that use unskilled and semi-skilled labour intensively leading the way. Results indicate that a policy of real wage moderation (or even modest decline) presents a straightforward option for bolstering overall economic growth. A wage moderation policy also provides a particularly large stimulus for sectors that use unskilled and semi-skilled labour intensively with further positive implications for employment. Copyright © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Suggested Citation

  • Channing Arndt & Jeffrey D. Lewis, 2001. "The HIV|AIDS pandemic in South Africa: sectoral impacts and unemployment," Journal of International Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 13(4), pages 427-449.
  • Handle: RePEc:wly:jintdv:v:13:y:2001:i:4:p:427-449
    DOI: 10.1002/jid.796

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Devaragan, Shantayanan & Lewis, Jeffrey D. & Robinson, Sherman, 1990. "Policy lessons from trade-focused, two-sector models," Journal of Policy Modeling, Elsevier, vol. 12(4), pages 625-657.
    2. Bloom, David E. & Mahal, Ajay S., 1997. "Does the AIDS epidemic threaten economic growth?," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 77(1), pages 105-124, March.
    3. Cuddington, John T, 1993. "Modeling the Macroeconomic Effects of AIDS, with an Application to Tanzania," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 7(2), pages 173-189, May.
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    2. Chijioke O. Nwosu, 2016. "The impact of health on the employment and earnings of young South Africans," Working Papers 601, Economic Research Southern Africa.
    3. de Araujo, Pedro & Murray, James, 2010. "A Life Insurance Deterrent to Risky Behavior in Africa," MPRA Paper 22675, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    4. RUTTEN Martine & BLAKE Adam & REED Geoffrey, "undated". "The Economic Impact of Health Provision: A Preliminary CGE Assessment for the UK," EcoMod2003 330700128, EcoMod.
    5. Vasilakis, Chrysovalantis, 2012. "The social economic impact of AIDS: Accounting for intergenerational transmission, productivity and fertility," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 29(2), pages 369-381.
    6. Judith Kabajulizi & Judith Kabajulizi & Mthuli Ncube, 2015. "The economy wide impact of HIV/AIDS and the funding dilemma in Africa: Evidence from a dynamic life cycle horizon," EcoMod2015 8563, EcoMod.
    7. Thurlow, James, 2007. "Is HIV/AIDS undermining Botswana's ‘success story'? implications for development strategy:," IFPRI discussion papers 697, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    8. Enrico Lovász & Bernhard Schipp, 2009. "The Impact Of Hiv/Aids On Economic Growth In Sub-Saharan Africa," South African Journal of Economics, Economic Society of South Africa, vol. 77(2), pages 245-256, June.
    9. repec:ibn:ijefaa:v:9:y:2017:i:12:p:202-214 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Roe, Terry L. & Smith, Rodney B.W., 2004. "Incorporating Epidemiological Projections Of Morbidity And Mortality Into An Open Economy Growth Model: Aids In South Africa," 2004 Annual meeting, August 1-4, Denver, CO 20254, American Agricultural Economics Association (New Name 2008: Agricultural and Applied Economics Association).
    11. Denis Cogneau & Michael Grimm, 2002. "AIDS and Income Distribution in Africa; A Micro-simulation Study for Côte d'Ivoire," Working Papers DT/2002/15, DIAL (Développement, Institutions et Mondialisation).
    12. Thornton, Rebecca L., 2012. "HIV testing, subjective beliefs and economic behavior," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 99(2), pages 300-313.
    13. Ahmed,Syud Amer & Baris,Enis & Go,Delfin Sia & Lofgren,Hans & Osorio-Rodarte,Israel & Thierfelder,Karen E. & Ahmed,Syud Amer & Baris,Enis & Go,Delfin Sia & Lofgren,Hans & Osorio-Rodarte,Israel & Thier, 2017. "Assessing the global economic and poverty effects of antimicrobial resistance," Policy Research Working Paper Series 8133, The World Bank.
    14. Rutten, Martine & Reed, Geoffrey, 2009. "A comparative analysis of some policy options to reduce rationing in the UK's NHS: Lessons from a general equilibrium model incorporating positive health effects," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 28(1), pages 221-233, January.
    15. Louise Roos, 2013. "Modelling the impact of HIV/AIDS: A literature review," Centre of Policy Studies/IMPACT Centre Working Papers g-233, Victoria University, Centre of Policy Studies/IMPACT Centre.
    16. Arndt, Channing & Wobst, Peter, 2002. "HIV/AIDS and labor markets in Tanzania," TMD discussion papers 102, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    17. Smith, Rodney B.W., 2003. "Aids And Economic Growth In South Africa," Conference Papers 28072, University of the Free State, Department of Agricultural Economics.
    18. Thurlow, James & George, Gavin & Gow, Jeff, 2009. "HIV/AIDS, growth and poverty in KwaZulu-Natal and South Africa: Integrating firm-level surveys with demographic and economywide modeling," IFPRI discussion papers 864, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    19. Judith Kabajulizi, 2013. "Macroeconomic Implications Of Health Sector Reforms In Uganda: A Computable General Equilibrium Analysis," EcoMod2013 5158, EcoMod.
    20. Jocelyn Vass, 2005. "The Relationship Between Labour Market Dynamics And Hiv/Aids Prevalence In South Africa - A Literature Review," South African Journal of Economics, Economic Society of South Africa, vol. 73(s1), pages 564-577, December.
    21. Arndt, Channing, 2002. "HIV/AIDS, human capital, and economic prospects for Mozambique," TMD discussion papers 88, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    22. Lucilla Maria Bruni & Jamele Rigolini & Sara Troiano, 2016. "Forever Young?," World Bank Other Operational Studies 24996, The World Bank.
    23. Agbola, Frank W. & Damoense, Maylene Y. & Saini, Yvonne K., 2003. "HIV/AIDS and South Africa’s Agricultural Sector: Impact on Food Demand," 2003 Conference (47th), February 12-14, 2003, Fremantle, Australia 57824, Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society.
    24. Alemu, Zerihun Gudeta & Roe, Terry L. & Smith, Rodney B.W., 2005. "The Impact of HIV on Total Factor Productivity," Bulletins 12976, University of Minnesota, Economic Development Center.
    25. Jean-Marc MONTAUD & Mahamadou Roufahi TANKARI, 2013. "When social goals meet economic goals: the double dividend of extending free access to healthcare in Uganda," Working Papers 2012-2013_8, CATT - UPPA - Université de Pau et des Pays de l'Adour, revised Jul 2013.

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