8 October 2013

South Africa: The Beggar-Thy-Neighbour Outcomes of Strike Season


The Numsa strike in the automotive sector has been called off after an enervating couple of weeks for the sector.

The petrol pump attendants' strike (and subsequent settlement) followed a similar trajectory: a labour dispute that dragged on for weeks before employers agreed to double-digit wage increases. There's another important feature that both industries share: employees' wages are partly subsidised through the fiscus.

This means that the unemployed are subsidising the wages of the employed, albeit indirectly and partially.

There's been a fair bit of debate in the media about poverty, unemployment and inequality in the last few weeks. Some commentators have claimed that inequality is not a serious problem and that unemployment is the bugbear and the boggart to be tackled.

Others believe that inequality is a grievous threat to social stability and cannot be ignored.

The debate is seemingly without end or resolution. The differing sides can't agree on which social ill should be made a priority, nor can they find consensus on who is to blame for our record level of inequality and rate of unemployment.

It might not be constructive to view the economy as a zero-sum game, but it's not far off...

Copyright © 2013 Daily Maverick. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com). To contact the copyright holder directly for corrections — or for permission to republish or make other authorized use of this material, click here.

AllAfrica publishes around 2,000 reports a day from more than 130 news organizations and over 200 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Articles and commentaries that identify allAfrica.com as the publisher are produced or commissioned by AllAfrica. To address comments or complaints, please Contact us.