Syndicate content

South Africa

A Tale of Two Impacts: Minimum Wage Outcomes in South Africa

Haroon Bhorat's picture

Worker pruning fruit trees Economist and Nobel Prize laureate James M. Buchanan remarked to the Wall Street Journal in 1996 that "Just as no physicist would claim that "water runs uphill”, no self-respecting economist would claim that increases in the minimum wage increase employment."  Of course this statement remains broadly true today, but the advent of better data, improved statistal techniques and the proliferation of country studies – have made economists far more careful about pre-judging the impact of minimum wages on employment and wages.  Indeed, in a now famous study of fast food restaurants in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, David Card and Alan Krueger showed how the imposition of a minimum wage had no significant disemployment effects, and in some cases increased employment, arising out of a large enough increase in demand for the firms’ products.
 
The evidence for South Africa, some twenty years after the demise of apartheid, is equally compelling.  In a two-part study, my co-authors and I find an intriguing set of contrasting economic outcomes, from the imposition of a series of sectoral minimum wage laws.  In South Africa, the minimum wage setting body, known as the Employment Conditions Commission (ECC), advises the Minister of Labour on appropriate and feasible minimum wages for different sectors or sub-sectors in the economy.  Currently, the economy has in place 11 such sectoral minimum wage laws in sectors ranging from Agriculture and Domestic Work, to Retail and Private Security.

Social Mobility and Education

Servaas van der Berg's picture

In his post on this blog, Augusto Lopez-Claros correctly identifies illiteracy as an important factor in global inequality, and places the blame for much of the illiteracy that exists squarely at the feet of government choices. A perspective from South Africa – a country with extreme inequality – confirms that education may be the key to reducing inequality.

TS36-12 World Bank Not surprisingly, given their history, South Africans are obsessed with inequality. Income distribution features prominently in all political debates, in government policies and in the National Development Plan. Yet there is little understanding that the roots of this inequality lie in the labour market, particularly in the wage distribution, and that changing this distribution requires a dramatic improvement in the weak quality of most of South Africa’s schools.