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Estimating the Causal Effect of Enforcement on Minimum Wage Compliance: The Case of South Africa


  • The authors would like to thank two anonymous referees, participants at the conference on “Enforcement, Evasion and Informality: Theory and Practice” at the University of Michigan, and seminar participants at the University of Cape Town School of Economics Departmental Seminar Series (2010) for comments., Tel: +27-21-650-5705, Fax: +27-21-650-5711


This paper attempts to estimate the causal effect of government enforcement on compliance with minimum wages in South Africa, a country where considerable non-compliance exists. The number of labor inspectors per capita is used as a proxy for enforcement, while non-compliance is measured using an index of violation that measures both the proportion of individuals violated, as well as the average depth of individual violation. Because of the potential simultaneity between enforcement and compliance, the number of labor inspectors is instrumented by the number of non-inspectors. The results suggest that there are a variety of factors impacting on violation, including firm-level, sectoral, and spatial characteristics. One of the key determinants of violation is found to be the local unemployment rate. However, the number of labor inspectors is found to be insignificant in determining non-compliance.