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The unintended consequences of education policies on South African participation and unemployment

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  • Rulof Burger
  • Servaas van der Berg and Dieter von Fintel
  • Dieter von Fintel

Abstract

In the late 1990s the South African Department of Education implemented two policies that were meant to reduce the large number of over-age learners in the school system: schools were no longer allowed to accept students who were more than two years older than the correct grade-age and students could not be held back more than once in each of four schooling phases. Our analysis uses school administrative data and household survey data to show that these policies coincided with a decrease in school enrolment of at least 400,000 and possibly as many as 900,000 learners. This effect was most noticeable for over-aged learners who remained in school due to their poor labour market prospects. Most of these students seem to have been pushed into the labour market by these policies, which could explain much of the sudden increase in labour force participation and unemployment over this period. However, since these individuals would probably have entered the labour market sooner if not for their poor employment prospects, we argue that the increase in unemployment signifies a more accurate reflection of disguised unemployment that already existed in the mid-1990s rather than a deterioration of labour market conditions.

Suggested Citation

  • Rulof Burger & Servaas van der Berg and Dieter von Fintel & Dieter von Fintel, 2012. "The unintended consequences of education policies on South African participation and unemployment," Working Papers 289, Economic Research Southern Africa.
  • Handle: RePEc:rza:wpaper:289
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Abhijit Banerjee & Sebastian Galiani & Jim Levinsohn & Zoë McLaren & Ingrid Woolard, 2008. "Why has unemployment risen in the New South Africa?," The Economics of Transition, The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, vol. 16(4), pages 715-740, October.
    2. 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.
    3. Martin Browning & Ian Crawford & Marike Knoef, 2012. "The age-period cohort problem: set identification and point identification," CeMMAP working papers CWP02/12, Centre for Microdata Methods and Practice, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
    4. David J. McKenzie, 2006. "Disentangling Age, Cohort and Time Effects in the Additive Model," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 68(4), pages 473-495, August.
    5. Rulof Burger & Ingrid Woolard, 2005. "The State of the Labour Market in South Africa after the First Decade of Democracy," SALDRU/CSSR Working Papers 133, Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit, University of Cape Town.
    6. Nicola Branson & Martin Wittenberg, 2007. "The Measurement Of Employment Status In South Africa Using Cohort Analysis, 1994-2004," South African Journal of Economics, Economic Society of South Africa, vol. 75(2), pages 313-326, June.
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    8. Miracle Ntuli & Martin Wittenberg, 2013. "Determinants of Black Women's Labour Force Participation in Post-Apartheid South Africa," Journal of African Economies, Centre for the Study of African Economies (CSAE), vol. 22(3), pages 347-374, June.
    9. Rulof Burger & Dieter von Fintel, 2009. "Determining the Causes of the Rising South African Unemployment Rate: An Age, Period and Generational Analysis," Working Papers 24/2009, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
    10. Nicola Branson & Cally Ardington & David Lam & Murray Leibbrandt, 2013. "Changes in education, employment and earnings in South Africa – A cohort analysis," SALDRU Working Papers 105, Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit, University of Cape Town.
    11. Daniela Casale & Dorrit Posel, 2002. "The Continued Feminisation Of The Labour Force In South Africa," South African Journal of Economics, Economic Society of South Africa, vol. 70(1), pages 156-184, March.
    12. Lam, David & Ardington, Cally & Leibbrandt, Murray, 2011. "Schooling as a lottery: Racial differences in school advancement in urban South Africa," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(2), pages 121-136, July.
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    Cited by:

    1. Dieter von Fintel, 2016. "Wage flexibility in a high unemployment regime: spatial heterogeneity and the size of local labour markets," Working Papers 09/2016, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
    2. Dieter von Fintel, 2017. "Institutional wage-setting, labour demand and labour supply: Causal estimates from a South African pseudo-panel," Development Southern Africa, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 34(1), pages 1-16, January.
    3. Liz Neyens & Martin Wittenberg, 2016. "Changes in self-employment in the agricultural sector, South Africa: 1994-2012," SALDRU Working Papers 173, Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit, University of Cape Town.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J21 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Labor Force and Employment, Size, and Structure
    • I25 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Education and Economic Development
    • J64 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Unemployment: Models, Duration, Incidence, and Job Search

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