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What has the Feminisation of the Labour Market ‘Bought’ Women in South Africa? Trends in Labour Force Participation, Employment and Earnings, 1995-2001

  • Daniela Casale


    (School of Economics, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban)

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    There has been a dramatic increase in the labour force participation of women in South Africa since the mid-1990s. Male participation has also been increasing but at a substantially slower rate, such that a feminisation of the labour force has occurred, mirroring a more general global trend that has been occurring since World War Two. Unlike the experience in many other countries, however, the rise in the labour force participation of women in South Africa has translated mainly into an increase in unemployment. Nonetheless, there has also been some increase in employment among women over the same period. This paper analyses what this rise in employment has ‘bought’ women in South Africa in terms of access to different types of employment and earnings for the period 1995 to 2001. The analysis suggests that the nature of the feminisation of the labour market in South Africa has been such that the disadvantaged position of women in the labour market relative to that of men has not been fundamentally challenged. Women continue to be over-represented in low-income, less secure employment. Where there has been some opportunity for advancement over the period, white women seem to have been the main beneficiaries.

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    Paper provided by University of Cape Town, Development Policy Research Unit in its series Working Papers with number 04084.

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    Length: 27 pages
    Date of creation: Mar 2004
    Date of revision:
    Publication status: Published in Working Paper Series by the Development Policy Research Unit, March 2004, pages 1-27
    Handle: RePEc:ctw:wpaper:04084
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    1. Mwabu, Germano & Schultz, T Paul, 1996. "Education Returns across Quantiles of the Wage Function: Alternative Explanations for Returns to Education by Race in South Africa," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(2), pages 335-39, May.
    2. Deolalikar, A.B. & Evenson, R.E., 1988. "Technology Production And Technology Purchase In Indian Industry: An Econometric Analysis," Papers 556, Yale - Economic Growth Center.
    3. Standing, Guy, 1989. "Global feminization through flexible labor," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 17(7), pages 1077-1095, July.
    4. Doubell Chamberlain & Servaas van der Berg, 2002. "Earnings functions, labour market discrimination and quality of education in South Africa," Working Papers 02/2002, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
    5. Murray Leibbrandt & Haroon Bhorat, 1999. "Correlates of Vulnerability in the South African Labour Market," Working Papers 99027, University of Cape Town, Development Policy Research Unit.
    6. Chen, Martha & Sebstad, Jennefer & O'Connell, Lesley, 1999. "Counting the Invisible Workforce: The Case of Homebased Workers," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 27(3), pages 603-610, March.
    7. Jacob Mincer, 1958. "Investment in Human Capital and Personal Income Distribution," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 66, pages 281.
    8. Standing, Guy, 1999. "Global Feminization Through Flexible Labor: A Theme Revisited," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 27(3), pages 583-602, March.
    9. 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.
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