1963-2013 - 50 years of Research for Social Change

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Back | Project: Racism and Public Policy

Abstract of Paper by Guy Mhone

  • Project from: 2000 to 2001

The legacy of Labour Market Discrimination in Southern Africa: Efficiency and Equity Implications for Growth and Development
This paper will discuss the nature of labour market discrimination in Southern Africa as well as its economic, social and political consequences following the demise of formal discrimination and the attainment of independence or democratic rule. The paper will advance theoretical explanations for the nature of labour market discrimination in Southern Africa especially as manifested in primary discrimination (to consolidate cheap labour), secondary discrimination (to protect white labour) and composite discrimination (the discriminatory outcome of the compromise alliance of dominant interests in support of primary and secondary discrimination). It will focus on South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Zambia, Malawi, Botswana, Malawi, Lesotho and Swaziland.

The paper will provide empirical illustrations of the labour market outcomes arising from the three forms of discrimination in many of the countries in Southern Africa and discuss their consequences in terms of distributive, allocative and microeconomic efficiency considerations in both static and dynamic terms. It will aim to demonstrate that in spite of the ending of formal discrimination in many of the countries that inherited structured and formalized forms of discrimination, the legacy of labour market discrimination continues to have persistent and pervasive negative consequences on efficiency and distributive grounds. An attempt will be made to discuss not only the economic manifestations of such consequences, but also the social and political consequences.

The paper will then proceed to show how the various positions taken and paradigms utilised by various stakeholders and interest groups (on the basis of class and race in particular) in policy discourses on labour market policy, economic policy, and social policy and regional integration may implicitly or inadvertently reinforce legacies of racism and discrimination in the labour market even long after formal discrimination can be said to have been outlawed.

The paper will assess the degree to which post-colonial governments have attempted to take the legacy of labour discrimination into account in their labour market, social and economic policies and the degree to which they have succeeded or failed in resolving the inherited consequences. The paper will not only discuss the policy failures in terms of development policy. It will also review attempts at the national level to address such issues as affirmative action, employment equity, economic empowerment, and education and training; and attempts at the regional level to promote free movement of persons and labour market migration. The paper will demonstrate that labour market discrimination has bequeathed fundamental structural constraints to equitable development that have so far not been adequately addressed by national governments and regional entities.