A demand analysis of labour in South African agriculture : the effects of labour legislation.
Labour legislation was introduced into agriculture in the early 1990s with the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA) being gazetted in 1992. Since the mid-1990s "new" labour legislation pertaining to agriculture has been implemented in South Africa, and includes the Basic Conditions of Employment Act 75 of 1997 (amended), the Unemployment Insurance Act 63 of 2001 (amended), the Labour Relations Act (LRA) 66 of 1995, the Land Reform (Labour Tenants) Act 3 of 1996, the Extension of Security of Tenure Act 62 of 1997, the Employment Equity Act 55 of 1998, the Skills Development Levies Act 9 of 1999, and the Sectoral Determination (an amendment of the BCEA 75 of 1997) which includes the imposition of minimum wages. This study examines the legislation in detail as well as the implications of this legislation for agricultural labour employment in South Africa. A relative increase in the cost (transaction and wage) and risk associated with labour motivates farmers to replace labour with machinery, machinery contractors, labour contractors or new technologies that are labour-saving. This results in a decrease in the demand for unskilled workers and higher levels of poverty and unemployment in South Africa. This study estimates long-run price elasticities of demand for regular labour in South African (SA) agriculture using both Ordinary Least Squares (OLS) regression and a Two-stage Least Squares (2SLS) simultaneous equations model. The 2SLS model includes a labour supply equation. Secondary data obtained over a 43 year period (1960-2002) from Statistics South Africa and the Abstract of Agricultural Statistics were used in this study. Both models were estimated for the period 1960-2002, and included a piecewise slope dummy variable for wages with the threshold year taken as 1991 to reflect expected changes in farm labour legislation. Study results show that the estimated long-run price elasticity of demand for labour for the pre-1991 (i.e., 1960-1990) period was -0,25 for the OLS model and -0,23 for the 2SLS model suggesting that the demand for regular labour was jnelastic during this period. For the post-1991 period (1991-2002), the long-run elasticity was estimated as -1,32 for the OLS model and -1,34 for the 2SLS model. This shows a structural change in demand that questions the appropriateness of minimum wage and other labour legislation that has raised the cost of regular farm labour in South Africa. Labour legislation introduced in the early 1990s encouraged farmers to substitute casual workers for regular workers. However, the inclusion of all casual workers in minimum wage legislation from 2006 is expected to slow the casualisation of agricultural labour as farmers turn to labour contractors, chemicals and machinery as the next best substitutes. The study found that an increase (decrease) in the price of chemicals (pesticides and herbicides for crops, and labour saving dips and sprays for animals) result in an increase (decrease) in the demand for regular labour. The demand for labour is also sensitive to changes in real interest rates (used as a proxy for machinery costs). The cost of capital would decrease (increase) as interest rates fall (rise), resulting in farmers adopting more (less) machinery and equipment, causing a decrease (increase) in the demand for regular labour, ceteris paribus. In order to reverse the regular labour unemployment trend in SA agriculture, government could choose to adopt more flexible labour market regulations (i.e., legislation regarding the hiring and dismissing of farm workers, and increases in wages and benefits for the farm worker could be based on the individual performance of each worker as opposed to increasing the wages of the entire workforce through minimum wages) which would reduce labour costs and encourage farmers to employ more labour.
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