Migration and gender in South Africa: following bright lights and the fortunes of others?

Stellenbosch Working Paper Series No. WP09/2017 (revised, version: 2)
 
Publication date: September 2017
 
Author(s):
[protected email address] (Department of Economics, Stellenbosch University and Institute for Labor Economics (IZA), Bonn)
[protected email address] (Department of Economics, Stellenbosch University)
 
Abstract:

Internal migration in South Africa has a strong gender dimension. Historically, the apartheid-era migrant labour system meant that predominantly black African men moved to urban areas without their families. After the abolition of influx controls in 1986, many women relocated, presumably to join their male partners. The period of migration feminization was also coupled with labour market feminization. However, existing research shows that increased female labour supply was poorly matched by labour market absorption, leading to rising unemployment among black African women. This paper studies incentives for female migration in this context, by building a gravity model of male and female inter-municipal migration. We find that neither men nor women move primarily for family reasons. Instead, they follow the traditional male migrant route to well-lit economic centres. Women also do not migrate primarily for increases in their own labour market opportunities, but tend to flock to regions where other fortunate groups have higher earnings potential. While this might signal that migrants base relocation decisions on incorrect information (and could in turn explain why many migrants have unfulfilled expectations), our results also show that women not only move for work, but for public services. The implications are twofold if migration is to alleviate poverty in the long run: firstly, in the short run, management of public resources must improve, as poor (women) place large emphasis on their effect; and secondly, labour market barriers – especially into the informal sector – should be better understood.

 
JEL Classification:

C31, J16, J61, O15, O18, R23

Keywords:

Regional migration, gravity model, feminization of migration, income mobility, economics of gender, South Africa

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BER Weekly

18 February 2019
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BER Weekly

18 February 2019
There was a slew of data releases last week, both on the domestic and international front. Domestic releases focused on real economic data for December 2018, all but completing the picture for 2018Q4 GDP. In financial markets, the rand lost further ground last week on the back of a strong US dollar and the return of load shedding. On the international...

Read the full issue