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The Determinants of Earnings Inequalities: Panel data evidence from South Africa

  • Andrew Kerr
  • Francis Teal

In this paper we analyse the relative importance of individual ability and labour market institutions, including public sector wage setting and trade unions, in determining earnings differences across different types of employment. To do this we use the KwaZulu-Natal Income Dynamics Study data from South Africa, which show extremely large average earnings differentials across different types of employment. Our results suggest that human capital and individual ability explain much of the earnings differentials within the private sector, including the union premium, but cannot explain the large premiums for public sector workers. We show that a public sector premium exists only for those moving into the public sector. The paper addresses the challenges of non-random attrition and measurement error bias that panel data bring. Our results show that emphasising a simple binary dichotomy between the formal and informal sector can be unhelpful in attempting to explore how the labour market functions.

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Paper provided by Centre for the Study of African Economies, University of Oxford in its series CSAE Working Paper Series with number 2012-04.

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Date of creation: 2012
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:csa:wpaper:2012-04
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  1. Abowd, J.M. & Kramarz, F. & Margolis, D.N., 1995. "High-Wage Workers and High-Wage Firms," Cahiers de recherche 9503, Centre interuniversitaire de recherche en économie quantitative, CIREQ.
  2. Julian May & Jorge Aguero & Michael Carter & Ian Tim�us, 2007. "The KwaZulu-Natal Income Dynamics Study (KIDS) third wave: methods, first findings and an agenda for future research," Development Southern Africa, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 24(5), pages 629-648.
  3. Fields, Gary S., 1975. "Rural-urban migration, urban unemployment and underemployment, and job-search activity in LDCs," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 2(2), pages 165-187, June.
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  6. James Heintz & Dorrit Posel, 2008. "Revisiting Informal Employment And Segmentation In The South African Labour Market," South African Journal of Economics, Economic Society of South Africa, vol. 76(1), pages 26-44, 03.
  7. Pratap, Sangeeta & Quintin, Erwan, 2006. "Are labor markets segmented in developing countries? A semiparametric approach," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 50(7), pages 1817-1841, October.
  8. Eliane El Badaoui & Eric Strobl & Frank Walsh, 2008. "Is There an Informal Employment Wage Penalty? Evidence from South Africa," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 56, pages 683-710.
  9. Cameron,A. Colin & Trivedi,Pravin K., 2005. "Microeconometrics," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521848053.
  10. Falco, Paolo & Kerr, Andrew & Rankin, Neil & Sandefur, Justin & Teal, Francis, 2011. "The returns to formality and informality in urban Africa," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(S1), pages S23-S31.
  11. Moll, Peter, 1996. "Compulsory Centralization of Collective Bargaining in South Africa," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(2), pages 326-29, May.
  12. James J. Heckman & V. Joseph Hotz, 1986. "An Investigation of the Labor Market Earnings of Panamanian Males Evaluating the Sources of Inequality," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 21(4), pages 507-542.
  13. Malcolm Keswell & Laura Poswell, 2004. "Returns To Education In South Africa: A Retrospective Sensitivity Analysis Of The Available Evidence," South African Journal of Economics, Economic Society of South Africa, vol. 72(4), pages 834-860, 09.
  14. Jeremy R. Magruder, 2012. "High Unemployment Yet Few Small Firms: The Role of Centralized Bargaining in South Africa," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 4(3), pages 138-66, July.
  15. Paul Cichello & Gary Fields & Murray Leibbrandt, 2003. "Earnings and Employment Dynamics for Africans in Post-apartheid South Africa: A Panel Study of KwaZulu-Natal," Working Papers 03077, University of Cape Town, Development Policy Research Unit.
  16. Haroon Bhorat & Carlene van der Westhuizen & Sumayya Goga, 2009. "Analysing Wage Formation in the South African Labour Market: The Role of Bargaining Councils," Working Papers 09135, University of Cape Town, Development Policy Research Unit.
  17. Günther, Isabel & Launov, Andrey, 2012. "Informal employment in developing countries," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 97(1), pages 88-98.
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