A Review of Labour Markets in South Africa: how Different is the South African Labour Market? International Perspectives and Parallels

by EDGREN, G., 2005
Research Report, Employment Growth & Development Initiative, Human Sciences Research Council

Half a century of apartheid left a deep imprint on all aspects of the South African labour market. In many ways, this leaves the country as a ‘special case’ in the field of labour market analysis, with large gaps in human development, significant underutilisation of the labour force, and difficult tensions in industrial relations. But the nineties brought another scourge, in the form of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. In view of these dramatic challenges, it is often hard to see useful parallels with developments in other countries. Edgren reviews different aspects of the labour market, and compares developments in South Africa with those in Brazil, Mexico, Malaysia, Poland, Turkey and Slovakia. The topics covered by the paper include changing economic structures, labour market participation, education and its economic returns, the role of the informal economy, the erosion of human capital due to HIV/AIDS, the wages–employment trade-off, and employment protection and competitiveness.