WP 04/086 - Co-ordination Failure and Employment in South Africa

David Fryer and Desire Vencatachellum

Date of Publication: 
June 2004

South Africa lost more than 890,000 jobs, but saw an increase in the number of skilled workers from 1989 to 1999. We argue that this is the consequence of well-documented acute apartheid-era distortions which led to a current coordination failure where (i) firms are locked into a mostly skillintensive technology where they have very little demand for semi-skilled and unskilled labour, and (ii) there are too few semi-skilled and skilled blacks. It follows that the average level of blacks human capital is too low for firms to adopt a technology which makes intensive use of less skilled workers in the production process. A firm cannot unilaterally change technology because current skilled (mostly white) workers would lose and move to other firms. All of this points to a missing market for semi-skilled workers. Wealth redistribution and public investments in both the quantity and quality of education are shown to be Pareto-improving. JEL Classification: O14, J48 Keywords: South Africa, Employment, Human Capital, Coordination Failure, Apartheid

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