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Wage determination and employment in South Africa: the case of the clothing industry

Date Released: Tue, 20 September 2016 16:00 +0200

Professors Nicoli Nattrass and Jeremy Seekings presented their paper entitled Wage determination and employment in South Africa: the case of the clothing industry on 20 September 2016 as part of the Labour Studies Seminar Series, which is run by Neil Aggett Labour Studies Unit (NALSU) and the Departments of Sociology, History, and Economics and Economic History.

Profs Nattrass and Seekings are both based at the Centre for Social Science Research at the University of Cape Town – Prof Nattrass as a Professor of Economics and Prof Seekings as a Professor of Political Studies and Sociology and as Director. Both are regular Visiting Professors at Yale. Both have published widely; individually and together. Prof Nattrass has focused particularly on the areas of economic policy, inequality and the political economy of AIDS, and Prof Seekings’ research has ranged across history, politics, sociology and economics. In recent years, their collaborative research has included work on the South African clothing industry and labour-intensive growth. Prof Seekings also runs a major project on Legislating and Implementing Welfare Policy Reforms (LIWPR) in Africa, and Prof Nattrass has twice won the UCT Book Award.

Profs Nattrass and Seekings examined the effects of setting minimum wages in South Africa with particular reference to the clothing industry using Newcastle as a case study. In the abstract to their paper that was published in the journal Transformation, amongst others, they state the following: “The struggle over minimum wages in areas like Newcastle is of broader importance because the non-compliant firms comprised the labour-intensive rump of the last remaining labour-intensive manufacturing sector in South Africa. The Newcastle crisis reveals starkly the tensions between labour market policies and institutions and employment. The Newcastle case shows how, under the guise of promoting ‘decent work’ for workers and the supposed levelling of the playing field for producers, an unholy coalition of a trade union, some employers and the state initiated and drove a process of structural adjustment that undermined labour-intensive employment and exported South African jobs to lower-wage countries such as Lesotho and China.”  Theur presentation simulated a interesting discussion with their audience. 

Source:Wage determination and employment in South Africa: the case of the clothing industry