Many developing countries are facing high levels of unemployment and most people who are employed are poorly remunerated due to low skills and productivity levels. Although jobs are important, a productive job is even more important, not only for employees, but also for employers. South Africa, being a developing country, is also facing the challenge of dramatically high levels of unemployment. This study’s aim was to examine both the short- and long-term impacts of real wages, labour productivity and investment spending on employment absorption rates in South Africa. To establish the existing relationship between variables, the study applied several econometric approaches, such as an autoregressive distributed lag (ARDL) model, error correction model (ECM) and a Toda–Yamamoto causality analysis on quarterly time series data from 1995Q1 to 2019Q1. The results revealed the existence of both short- and long-run relationships among the variables. While a positive relationship was found between employment absorption, investment spending and labour productivity, it was found that real wages negatively impact on long-run employment absorption rates. Additionally, the short-run analysis indicated that the lagged employment absorption rate influences the current rate of employment. Furthermore, the causality tests indicated that a bi-directional causal relationship exists between employment absorption and investment spending; and a uni-directional relationship between employment and both real wages and labour productivity. Based on the findings, the study recommends increments of investment spending and labour productivity that enables the South African economy to carry out more activities that would require more workers, thereby improving the employment absorption rate. The fact that labour productivity positively impacts the employment absorption rate infers the requirement for quality and skilled workers to be absorbed in the South African labour market. Therefore, labour skills improvements appear to be a prerequisite for productivity enhancement and job creation.
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