A Matter of Life and Death in South Africa

by Don Boudreaux on June 28, 2008

in Current Affairs, Regulation, Work

Here’s Karol in The Guardian, explaining how unnecessary — and often deadly — conflict is sparked by labor-market regulations.  The setting for this sad story is South Africa.  Here’s Karol’s conclusion:

Making the labour market more flexible would actually benefit the poorest citizens. If it were less expensive to hire and fire workers, and if the regulatory costs of compliance with labour laws were lower, the formal sector in South Africa would employ more people. And if more jobs were created in the formal sector, people would feel less threatened by immigrants who have filled South Africa’s townships.

Employment policy reforms are not only necessary in South Africa, they are a matter of life and death.

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The Albatross June 28, 2008 at 8:07 pm

I am compelled to agree with something written in Britain’s worst newspaper—although nice not to see the Guardian’s usual laundry list of spelling and grammar mistakes. Don, how did Karol end up in The Guardian of all places? Also, you have my sympathies on some of the comments left—they are curt, childish, and Godwinesque. Her article reminds me very much of Robert Guest’s (the Africa correspondent for the Economist) books The Shackled Continent—an entertaining and worthwhile read for anyone interested in economic development (not kidding—there are two books and they are pretty funny in addition to being educational—I used to assign them). Glad to see she is keeping up the good fight in Africa—someone has to.

vidyohs June 29, 2008 at 11:11 am

White intolerance has been replaced in South Africa by Black intolerance? Gosh, who'da thunk it?

Well I did for one, didn't just think it would happen, I knew it would happen. Kinda like the sun rising each day.

Karol is right, Don. There is a way out for the South African government, but, it won't take it any more than our own government will take the logical rational way out of our own woes.

We, the USA and S. Africa, suffer so many parallels problems, a large uneducated portion of population is just one.

The ability to hire and fire at the discretion of the people who actually own and manage a business is certainly one.

A moribund beauracracy for another that has hiring and firing woes even worse than private business.

Really really stupid laws such as the ADA, which are not only stupid on the face of it but more so in the ability boradly interpret the ADA to create diseases and rights never dreamed of by intelligent ancestors.

Could go on and on, but I'll close by saying S. Africa was one of the highlights of my many travels. I was very sad to see it attacked and destroyed so ably by the American left.

improbable June 29, 2008 at 6:31 pm

Odd to see this in the Guardian, of all places! But too true.

The new south africa is obsessed with rights, since those creating it were all to aware of having lacked rights in the old one. This has good aspects, like the fact that gay marriage simply required the courts to read the constitution, and notice that it forbids discrimination.

But for the most part leads to a mentality that good things must fall from the sky when because the constitution decrees it so. The people will all have water, education, phones, jobs, because they are their rights. Unfortunately reality doesn't listen.

And the politicians show few signs of learning, it's all about "service delivery" as if the government controls a big spigot supplying these things, and just neads to do a better job handing them around.

Irreverence June 30, 2008 at 3:11 am

Karol's conclusion is valid and should be seen as a strategic imperative for the South African government.

Unfortunately analysis like this falls on deaf ears for idealogical reasons. The South African government is an alliance whose power centre lies increasingly with COSATU, an umbrella group of South African trade unions with a preference for distinctly left-of-centre labour policies. Unsurprisingly this group has no desire to see the labour market made more flexible. Indeed, suggestions in this vain are usually met with howls of derision and accusations of capitalist exploitation.

These are the conditions under which we suffer.

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