South Africa

Head shot of Ricardo Hausmann

Ricardo Hausmann

Director
Rafik Hariri Professor of the Practice of International Political Economy, HKS

Ricardo Hausmann is the founder and Director of Harvard’s Growth Lab and the Rafik Hariri Professor of the Practice of International Political Economy at...

Read more about Ricardo Hausmann
Office Address: Rubenstein-338

Mailing Address
John F. Kennedy School of Government
Mailbox 34
79 JFK Street
Cambridge, MA 02138

Assistant: Alexandra Villegas
p: 617-496-3740
Shah, K. & Sturzenegger, F., 2022. Search, Transport Costs, and Labor Markets in South Africa.Abstract

South Africa’s labor market exhibits a unique equilibrium with one of the highest unemployment rates in the world and yet a low level of informal employment. The unemployment rate has remained high and persistent over recent decades, in spite of the formal demise of the apartheid regime and subsequent transition to democracy in 1994. This paper uses a matching model of the labor market to argue that spatial considerations combined with low productivity of informal work may be responsible for such an outcome. Spatial dispersion inherited from the apartheid regime thins the labor market, creating exclusion and perpetuating spatial segregation. In most developing countries, the result would be higher employment in informal or own account employment. However, with low productivity in the informal sector, the high rate of exclusion shows itself in higher unemployment rates instead. Transportation costs and housing deregulation may become key factors in improving the working of the labor market in South Africa especially if it is not possible to raise informal productivity.

Related project: Growth Through Inclusion in South Africa

Lochmann, A., Rao, N. & Rossi, M.A., 2022. The Long-Run Effects of South Africa’s Forced Resettlements on Employment Outcomes.Abstract

Can South Africa’s segregation policies explain, at least partially, its current poor employment outcomes? To explore this question, we study the long-term impact of the forced resettlement of around 3.5 million black South Africans from their communities to the so-called “homelands” or “Bantustans”, between 1960 and 1991. Our empirical strategy exploits the variability in the magnitude of resettlements between communities. Two main findings. First, the magnitude of outgoing internal migrations was largest for districts close to former homelands. Second, districts close to former homelands have higher rates of non-employed population in 2011. Together the evidence suggests that districts that experienced racial segregation policies most intensely, as measured by outgoing forced resettlements, have worse current employment outcomes.

Related project: Growth Through Inclusion in South Africa

Lochmann, A., 2022. Diagnosing Drivers of Spatial Exclusion: Places, People, and Policies in South Africa’s Former Homelands.Abstract

This report analyzes the economic legacy of spatial exclusion in South Africa, focusing on the long-term effects of the former Bantustan policy. Through quantitative analysis, the report explores the spatial dimension of economic activity in South Africa and specifically how this particular spatial institution has continued to shape current economic outcomes, despite past and present attempts to reverse the effect. The report also identifies areas for further research and potential intervention to enable more effective economic inclusion of the former homeland areas of the country.

Related project: Accelerating Growth Through Inclusion in South Africa

Fortunato, A., 2022. Getting Back on the Curve: South Africa’s Manufacturing Challenge.Abstract

The report aims to inform the government’s strategic approach towards manufacturing by analyzing the potential and limits for job creation within the sector. To meet that goal, we analyze the sector’s main features and recent trajectory through the lens of global deindustrialization and South Africa’s particular industrial dynamics. Secondly, we provide evidence of how, when, and why South Africa has deviated from the global deindustrialization trends. Lastly, we provide a policy framework to address the bottlenecks that are preventing South Africa from getting back on a better track of industrial performance.

Related project: Accelerating Growth Through Inclusion in South Africa

Shah, K., 2022. Diagnosing South Africa’s High Unemployment and Low Informality.Abstract

This report analyzes the causes and consequences of South Africa’s high rates of unemployment and the unique nature of labor market exclusion in the country. It leverages a combination of new quantitative analysis using South African datasets and international datasets for benchmarking, together with synthesis of existing literature and case studies. The goal is to: (1) characterize the challenge of labor market exclusion in South Africa, (2) identify ways in which this is similar and different to other countries, (3) understand what drives the unique challenges of the labor market in South Africa, and (4) narrow down what policy areas are most important to address the underlying drivers. This report takes a diagnostic approach to understand the causes of South Africa’s unique pattern of low informality.

Related project: Accelerating Growth Through Inclusion in South Africa

Klinger, B., 2022. More (Inclusive) Entrepreneurship in South Africa: The Role of Franchising.Abstract

This paper explores franchising in South Africa, and its potential to help resolve the economy’s challenges of low entrepreneurship and concentrated ownership. South Africa features a large franchising sector, with half a million formal workers and a large number of small businesses owners competing directly with vertically integrated chains. Traditional franchising may not have much space for further growth as a percentage of the economy, but it can be made more inclusive with innovations in franchise finance that broaden the base of potential franchisees, as well as enforcement of consumer protections to ensure franchisee-franchisor relationships are balanced. The expansion of the franchising model to less capital-intensive business concepts and serving lower-income consumers (micro-franchising) is one area with expanding growth potential for the country, while the application of the franchising model to public services and socially driven organizations is less promising. Finally, while the franchising model is only directly applicable to particular sectors, there are features of franchising and the capabilities built up around the franchising that could be applied to other priority areas of the economy, in particular to smallholder agriculture. The success of traditional franchising shows the power of a menu of standardized proposals and contracts in a marketplace with a range of franchisors (in this case, up- and downstream agriculture corporates) offering different opportunities to potential franchisees (in this case, smallholder farming communities), along with training and technology transfer at scale.

Related project: Accelerating Growth Through Inclusion in South Africa

Hausmann, R., et al., 2022. Macroeconomic risks after a decade of microeconomic turbulence: South Africa 2007-2020.Abstract
This study analyses the performance of macroeconomic policy in South Africa in 2007–2020 and outlines challenges for policy in the coming decade. After remarkable economic growth in 1997–07, South Africa’s progress slowed dramatically in 2009 with the global financial crisis. Real GDP growth decelerated more than in other emerging markets and mineral exporting peers and never recovered pre-crisis levels. In addition, the budget deficit that provided counter-cyclical support to the economy was never reigned in, leading to a rapidly rising public debt load. The study assesses three accounts of South Africa’s post-GFC growth and fiscal slump: (1) an external story; (2) a macro story; and (3) a microeconomic story. Evidence of strong linkages between micro- and political developments and growth performance is provided.

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