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Returns to Race: Labour Market Discrimination in Post-Apartheid South Africa

  • Rulof Burger


    (Department of Economics, Stellenbosch University)

  • Rachel Jafta


    (Department of Economics, Stellenbosch University)

This paper empirically assesses the impact of post-1994 policy making on racial discrimination in the South African labour market. The post-apartheid government has implemented a series of remedial measures, including an ambitious set of black empowerment and affirmative action policies. The first part of the paper gives an overview of the South African labour market post-1994 and the most important legislation, regulations and other measures aimed at redressing the inequalities of the past. We then argue that some assessment of whether the aims of these measures are being achieved is necessary. The empirical part of the paper employs the decomposition techniques of Oaxaca (1973) and Blinder (1973), Brown, Moon and Zoloth (1980) and Juhn, Murphy and Pierce (1991, 1993) to analyse three stages of the employment process: employment, occupational attainment and wage determination. Fifteen nationally representative household surveys are used to compare the evolution of discriminatory hiring and remuneration practices between 1995 and 2004 and across population groups. The results suggest that affirmative action policies have had no observable effect on the racial employment gap, and its impact on the wage distribution is limited to a small narrowing of wages at the top of the wage distribution. There appears to have been a shift away from “pure discrimination” and towards differential returns to education, which is consistent with an increasingly important role for the quality of education in labour market outcomes.

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Paper provided by Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 04/2006.

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Date of creation: 2006
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Handle: RePEc:sza:wpaper:wpapers18
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  1. Ronald Oaxaca, 1971. "Male-Female Wage Differentials in Urban Labor Markets," Working Papers 396, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  2. Katherine M. O'Regan & John M. Quigley, 1997. "Teenage Employment and the Spatial Isolation of Minority and Poverty Households," Yale School of Management Working Papers ysm35, Yale School of Management.
  3. Coate, S. & Loury, G.C., 1992. "Will Affirmative Action Policies Eliminate Negative Stereotypes?," Papers 3, Boston University - Department of Economics.
  4. Alan S. Blinder, 1973. "Wage Discrimination: Reduced Form and Structural Estimates," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 8(4), pages 436-455.
  5. William A. Darity & Patrick L. Mason, 1998. "Evidence on Discrimination in Employment: Codes of Color, Codes of Gender," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 12(2), pages 63-90, Spring.
  6. Richard Startz & Lundberg, . "Private Discrimination and Social Intervention in Competitive Labor Markets," Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research Working Papers 19-81, Wharton School Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research.
  7. D'Amico, Thomas F, 1987. "The Conceit of Labor Market Discrimination," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(2), pages 310-15, May.
  8. Geeta G. Kingdon & John B. Knight, 2000. "Are searching and non-searching unemployment distinct states when unemployment is high? The case of South Africa," CSAE Working Paper Series 2000-02, Centre for the Study of African Economies, University of Oxford.
  9. Sandrine Rospabéa, 2002. "How Did Labour Market Racial Discrimination Evolve After The End Of Apartheid?," South African Journal of Economics, Economic Society of South Africa, vol. 70(1), pages 185-217, 03.
  10. David Neumark, 1987. "Employers' discriminatory behavior and the estimation of wage discrimination," Special Studies Papers 227, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  11. van der Berg, Servaas, 2008. "How effective are poor schools? Poverty and educational outcomes in South Africa," Center for European, Governance and Economic Development Research Discussion Papers 69, University of Goettingen, Department of Economics.
  12. Murray Leibbrandt & Haroon Bhorat, 1999. "Modelling Vulnerability and Low Earnings in the South African Labour Market," Working Papers 99032, University of Cape Town, Development Policy Research Unit.
  13. Kahn, Lawrence M, 1991. "Customer Discrimination and Affirmative Action," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 29(3), pages 555-71, July.
  14. Juhn, Chinhui & Murphy, Kevin M & Pierce, Brooks, 1993. "Wage Inequality and the Rise in Returns to Skill," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(3), pages 410-42, June.
  15. Randall S. Brown & Marilyn Moon & Barbara S. Zoloth, 1980. "Incorporating Occupational Attainment in Studies of Male-Female Earnings Differentials," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 15(1), pages 3-28.
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