Focus Area 1: Integrated approach to unemployment and employment in SA

ConvenorFrederick Fourie

Aims of Focus Area 1

Focus Area 1 builds on a wide-ranging study of unemployment undertaken in 2011 and the work of a research group active for some months prior to the initiation of the project. The initial phase identified a list major gaps and research priorities, based on a consultative process involving an initial core group of participating researchers. This constituted the basis for a first call for expressions of interest to the core group noted above. This group will be expanded now that the project has been constituted.

The specific aims are:

  1. Integrate development and sustainable-livelihood perspectives with, and into, labour market analyses;
  2. Integrate such an ‘integrated livelihood-labour package’ into macroeconomic analyses; and
  3. Derive policy proposals based on such an integrated perspective on unemployment, inequality and poverty.

In particular, the following pertinent dimensions of employment and unemployment in the developing country context of South Africa need to be considered explicitly:

  1. The entire economy, not just the formal sector. This encompasses the full spectrum of livelihoods: from surviving off grants to rural and urban subsistence, to various types of informal economy employment and self-employ¬ment, to formal sector employment and self-employment.
  2. The complexity of ‘access to labour markets’ amidst segmentation and various entry and mobility barriers between segments.
  3. Marginalisation and the conditions of poverty which appear to constitute substantial discouragement factors as well as barriers to access and mobility.
  4. The complexity of labour demand and firm dynamics (including entry and exit) in a formal-plus-informal and multi-segment context.


Research topics

  1. An appropriate labour market model for South Africa that explicitly engages with the developmental, multi-segment and multi-livelihoods contexts.
  2. Developing macroeconomic and growth models that incorporate the micro reality of segments and labour market mobility barriers.
  3. Giving content to ‘inclusive growth’ as both a process and an outcome involving linkages and transitions between segments (survivalist, subsistence, informal, formal), and both rural (farm and non-farm) and urban areas.
  4. Labour demand and firm behaviour in the formal and informal sectors, urban and rural, in various sectors of the economy.
  5. Livelihood, employment and (self-)employment strategies/potential (and barriers) in rural (farm and non-farm), peri-urban and urban areas
  6. Labour market dynamics and transitions between employment/livelihood states (subsistence, informal and formal) amidst segmentation and mobility barriers.
  7. Job search in a developing country, segmented-market and spectrum-of-livelihoods context: its nature, behavioural underpinnings, obstacles and facilitation.
  8. Skills-related barriers to employment and self-employment in the informal and formal sectors.
  9. A critical review of policy initiatives in the post-apartheid period with regard to employment generation and the persistence of unemployment.
  10. Evaluating the potential role of industrial and other policies to increase employment multipliers, labour-intensity and –absorption.
  11. Large infrastructure projects and employment.
  12. Land reform and employment.
  13. The optimal role of labour market regulation and other employment-related policies in the formal and informal economies.
  14. The impact of UIF, social grants and other household resources/transfers on livelihood strategies and on individual labour supply.
  15. Reforming the measurement of unemployment, underemployment, employment and related livelihood states.


Events under Focus Area 1

Information Economy Workshop: 3 & 5 July 2013



Measuring Informality

Nordman, C

Estimation and Survey methods for the Informal Sector

Measuring Informal Employment

Charmes, J

Measurement of Informal Economy in India 1 – Govindan, R

Measurement of Informal Economy in India 2 – Govindan, R

Measurement of Informal Economy in India 3 – Govindan, R

Measurement of Informal Economy in India 4 – Govindan, R

Measurement of Informal Economy in India 5 – Govindan, R

The informal economy –  HSRC HR Review – Devey et al 2008

Qualitative and Mixed-methods Research in Economics

Starr 2012

Informal economy research on data and methods

Starr 2012

Extracts on mixed-methods research

Johnson et al 2007

Guide to the Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS)

Stats SA 2008

QLFS questionnaire – Q3 2013

Report on the survey of employers and the self-employed

Stats SA 2009

Survey of the employers and the self employed – 2013 questionnaire