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Migration and Unemployment in South Africa: When Motivation Surpasses the Theory

  • Katy Cornwell


  • Brett Inder


This paper looks at the connection between internal migration and unemployment in South Africa. We examine whether rural-urban migrants are more likely to be unemployed, in informal sector employment or underemployed than non-migrants. We build on standard economic theory to predict that rates of unemployment and of participation in the informal sector ought to be much higher for migrants than for non-migrants. The empirical evidence we present, based on the 1993 and 1994 October Household Surveys, provides only some support for this theory. Results suggest that compared to job seeking non-migrants, recent migrants do well at finding formal employment, and are much less likely to be unemployed.

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Paper provided by Monash University, Department of Econometrics and Business Statistics in its series Monash Econometrics and Business Statistics Working Papers with number 2/04.

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Length: 30 pages
Date of creation: Feb 2004
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:msh:ebswps:2004-2
Contact details of provider: Postal: PO Box 11E, Monash University, Victoria 3800, Australia
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  1. Todaro, Michael P, 1986. "Internal Migration and Urban Employment: Comment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(3), pages 566-69, June.
  2. Geeta G. Kingdon & John B. Knight, 2001. "Unemployment in South Africa: The nature of the beast," CSAE Working Paper Series 2001-15, Centre for the Study of African Economies, University of Oxford.
  3. Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1974. "Alternative Theories of Wage Determination and Unemployment in LDC'S: The Labor Turnover Model," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 88(2), pages 194-227, May.
  4. J. B. Knight, 1982. "The Nature of Unemployment in South Africa," South African Journal of Economics, Economic Society of South Africa, vol. 50(1), pages 1-7, 03.
  5. Mazumdar, Dipak, 1976. "The Rural-Urban Wage Gap, Migration, and the Shadow Wage," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 28(3), pages 406-25, November.
  6. 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.
  7. J. Gerson, 1981. "The Question of Structural Unemployment in South Africa," South African Journal of Economics, Economic Society of South Africa, vol. 49(1), pages 7-15, 03.
  8. Hoddinott, John, 1996. "Wages and Unemployment in an Urban African Labour Market," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 106(439), pages 1610-26, November.
  9. Cole, William E & Sanders, Richard D, 1985. "Internal Migration and Urban Employment in the Third World," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(3), pages 481-94, June.
  10. H. Bhorat, 1999. "The October Household Survey, Unemployment and the Informal Sector: A Note," South African Journal of Economics, Economic Society of South Africa, vol. 67(2), pages 143-146, 06.
  11. Chaudhuri, Sarbajit, 2000. "Rural-Urban Migration, the Informal Sector, Urban Unemployment, and Development Policies: A Theoretical Analysis," Review of Development Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 4(3), pages 353-64, October.
  12. Steel, William F & Takagi, Yasuoki, 1983. "Small Enterprise Development and the Employment-Output Trade-Off," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 35(3), pages 423-46, November.
  13. Kaushik Basu, 2003. "Analytical Development Economics: The Less Developed Economy Revisited," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262523442, June.
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