Annual Forum Papers

A Firm Level Analysis of Trade, Technology and Employment in South Africa

  • Year: 2002
  • Author(s): Lawrence Edwards
  • Countries and Regions: South Africa

This paper uses two firm level surveys, the National Enterprise (NE) survey and the World Bank and Greater Johannesburg Metropolitan Council (GJMC) co-ordinated survey, to explore the implications of globalisation on employment in South Africa. We use the firm surveys to analyse the impact of trade liberalisation on the level and skill structure of employment. In the latter case we extend existing research in this area by focussing on the relationship between trade and choice of technology. We also analyse the impact of increased export orientation and foreign direct investment on employment. The results indicate substantial heterogeneity in the response of firms to trade liberalisation. On average large firms negatively affected by trade liberalisation reduced employment. No such relationship was found amongst small firms. Overall, however, the decline in employment due to trade liberalisation is likely to be small. Export competitiveness has improved through trade liberalisation, but this has not led to increased employment. Evidence of the impact of technological change on the skill structure of employment is also found. Increased use of computers, foreign investment and the importation of raw material inputs raise the skill intensity of production.