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The Relationship Between Unemployment and Earnings Inequality in South Africa

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  • Tregenna, F.

Abstract

Unemployment and earnings inequality have moved closely together in South Africa in recent years, suggesting that there may not be a trade-off between them as the literature generally suggests. This article explores the relationship between unemployment and earnings inequality in South Africa, specifically investigating the extent to which changes in unemployment can account for changes in earnings inequality. Decomposing overall income inequality by factor source shows the overwhelming importance of earnings in income inequality more generally. Decomposing earnings inequality by employment status reveals the centrality of unemployment in accounting for the level and trend of earnings inequality. The distribution of employment in the formal and informal sectors is found to be of lesser importance in explaining earnings inequality, as is wage dispersion within each of these categories. The findings point to the critical importance of reducing unemployment in South Africa if the extremely high levels of inequality are to be addressed.

Suggested Citation

  • Tregenna, F., 2009. "The Relationship Between Unemployment and Earnings Inequality in South Africa," Cambridge Working Papers in Economics 0907, Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge.
  • Handle: RePEc:cam:camdae:0907
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Fiona Tregenna, 2012. "What are the distributional implications of halving poverty in South Africa when growth alone is not enough?," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 44(20), pages 2577-2596, July.
    2. Nicola Branson & Julia Garlick & David Lam & Murray Leibbrandt, 2012. "Education and Inequality: The South African Case," SALDRU Working Papers 75, Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit, University of Cape Town.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Inequality; earnings distribution; unemployment; labour market; South Africa.;

    JEL classification:

    • D30 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - General
    • E24 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Employment; Unemployment; Wages; Intergenerational Income Distribution; Aggregate Human Capital; Aggregate Labor Productivity
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials

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