Low Wage Work in South Africa

by ALTMAN, M, 2006
Paper presented to IZA/World Bank Conference on Employment and Development, Pariser Platz 3, Berlin, Germany 25-27 May 2006

Altman examines the emerging character of the ‘working poor’ in South Africa and the implications for economic policy. The theme is particularly relevant for economies whose cost structures are not well aligned with promoting meaningful economic participation. The paper starts by setting the unemployment scene, showing that low-paid work is a greater burden if the labour market is loose – large numbers of people depend on fewer, low-paid earners. It then examines the shift from resources to services, given its effects on labour demand. It shows that South Africa leapt from being a resource-based economy to being a services economy. The paper then discusses the working poor in South Africa – who they are, what they earn, labour standards and job security.