The literature on the union wage gap in South Africa is extensive, spanning a range of datasets and methodologies. There is however, little consensus on the appropriate method to correct for the endogeneity of union membership or the size of the union wage gap. Furthermore, there are very few studies on the bargaining council wage premium in South Africa due to the lack of data on coverage of employees under bargaining council agreements. Our study, using 2005 Labour Force Survey data, firstly reconsiders the union wage gap controlling for both firm-level and job characteristics. When correcting for endogeniety of union status through a two-stage selection model and including firm size, the type of employment, and non-wage benefits in our wage estimations, we find a much lower union wage premium for African workers in the formal sector than premia reported in some previous studies. Secondly, our study estimates bargaining council wage premia for the private and public sectors. We find that extension procedures are present in both the private and public bargaining council systems, but that unions negotiate for additional gains for their members at the plant-level. The total estimated wage premium for formal sector African workers in the public sector who are both union members and covered by bargaining council agreements stands at 22 percent. Furthermore, there is some evidence that unions negotiate for awards for their members in the private sector, irrespective of bargaining council coverage.
Written by Haroon Bhorat, Carlene Van Der Westhuizen and Sumayya Goga – Development Policy Research Unit
The DPRU is a university-recognised research unit within the School of Economics at the University of Cape Town.
It conducts policy-relevant socioeconomic research in the fields of labour markets, poverty and inequality.