Annual Forum Papers

Trade Liberalisation and Factor Returns in South Africa, 1988-2002.

  • Year: 2004
  • Author(s): Lawrence Edwards; Duncan Pieterse
  • Countries and Regions: South Africa

This paper estimates the impact of trade liberalisation on factor returns in South Africa between 1988 and 2002. A particular contribution of the paper is that tariff data are explicitly used in the analysis. In addition, the paper models trade-induced technological change. The paper finds that tariff liberalisation from 1988 to 2002 negatively affected wages of South African labour relative to the return to capital. However, the decline in demand for labour is concentrated amongst skilled labour. Tariff liberalisation mandated a decline in the wages of skilled labour relative to both capital and less-skilled labour. The paper also finds some evidence of trade-induced technological change. The results suggest that trade-induced technological change positively benefited skilled labour relative to capital and less-skilled labour and thus partly ameliorated the negative direct effect on skilled labour arising from a reduction in tariffs. The net effect for skilled labour, however, remains negative relative to less-skilled labour and capital.The results of the paper, therefore, suggest that factors other than trade liberalisation account for the decline in employment experienced during the 1990s.