Annual Forum Papers

Coordination Failure and Employment in South Africa

  • Year: 2003
  • Author(s): David Fryer; Desire Vencatachellum
  • Countries and Regions: South Africa

South Africa simultaneously lost more than 890,000 jobs and increased the number of skilled workers from 1989 to 1999. We argue this is the consequence of well-documented acute apartheidera distortions which led to a current coordination failure where (i) firms are locked into a mostly skill-intensive technology where they have very little demand for semi-skilled and unskilled labor, and (ii) there are too few semiskilled 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 rm cannot unilaterally change technology because current skilled (mostly white) workers would lose and move to other firms. All this points to a missing market for semi-skilled workers. Wealth redistribution, public investments in both the quantityand quality of education are shown to be Pareto-improving.