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How Flexible are Wages in Response to Local Unemployment in South Africa?

  • Geeta Kingdon
  • John Knight

It is commonly claimed that the South African labor market is unusually inflexible owing to the strength of the unions and the system of centralized collective bargaining. One aspect of labor market inflexibility concerns the responsiveness of wages to local unemployment. Examining this spatial relationship, we find that the elasticity of wages to local unemployment rates in South Africa is -0.1, similar to that found in other countries, including the US and the UK. This is striking because South Africa has a national unemployment rate of over 30%. We find that the wage curve elasticity persists over a much wider range of unemployment rates than in OECD countries, implying that unemployment in South Africa can have a large impact on wages.

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Paper provided by University of Oxford, Department of Economics in its series Economics Series Working Papers with number GPRG-WPS-015.

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Date of creation: 01 Apr 2005
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Handle: RePEc:oxf:wpaper:gprg-wps-015
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  1. Blanchflower, D. & Oswald, A., 1989. "The Wage Curve," Papers 340, London School of Economics - Centre for Labour Economics.
  2. David Card, 1995. "The Wage Curve: A Review," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 33(2), pages 285-299, June.
  3. Moll, Peter, 1996. "Compulsory Centralization of Collective Bargaining in South Africa," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(2), pages 326-29, May.
  4. Blanchflower, David G & Oswald, Andrew J, 1993. " Testing for a U-Shaped Wage Curve. A Response," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 95(2), pages 245-48.
  5. Harris, John R & Todaro, Michael P, 1970. "Migration, Unemployment & Development: A Two-Sector Analysis," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 60(1), pages 126-42, March.
  6. Moll, Peter G, 1996. "The Collapse of Primary Schooling Returns in South Africa 1960-90," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 58(1), pages 185-209, February.
  7. van der Meulen Rodgers, Yana & Nataraj, Sita, 1999. "Labor Market Flexibility in East Asia: Lessons from Taiwan," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 48(1), pages 51-69, October.
  8. 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.
  9. Anne Case & Angus Deaton, 1999. "School Inputs And Educational Outcomes In South Africa," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 114(3), pages 1047-1084, August.
  10. Carruth, Alan & Oswald, Andrew, 1987. "Wage Inflexibility in Britain," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 49(1), pages 59-78, February.
  11. David G. Blanchflower, 1997. "Changes Over Time in Union Relative Wage Effects in Great Britain and the United States," NBER Working Papers 6100, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Pencavel, John, 1994. "British Unemployment: Letter from America," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 104(424), pages 621-32, May.
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