Unemployment in South Africa has multiple causes. This article uses a district pseudo-panel to estimate the elasticity of labour demand, labour supply and unemployment with respect to wages. We assess whether hiring decisions are more sensitive to increases in wages of low-paid workers than high-paid workers, and whether wage growth prompts entry into the labour market. These channels combine to result in the positive causal effect of wage growth on unemployment. The research investigates whether these effects are dominated by districts in which unionisation rates are high and employment is concentrated in large firms. Wage growth of middle-paid to highly paid workers – as opposed to low-paid workers – reduces local labour demand and raises local unemployment. Bargaining arrangements correspond closely to the spatial wage distribution; in turn, a large part of the impact that wage growth has on labour market outcomes is determined by these wage-setting institutions.
Keywords: Labour demand, labour supply, wages, unemployment, South Africa
JEL classification: J23, J21, J31, C33
Von Fintel, D., 2017. Institutional wage-setting, labour demand and labour supply: Causal estimates from a South African pseudo-panel. Development Southern Africa, 34(1), pp.1-16.