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Type Working Paper - SALDRU Working Paper
Title The role of employment history and age during COVID-19: Understanding 2020 South African employment dynamics in historical context
Volume 284
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2021
In this paper we seek to understand how the employment of different age groups in 2020 was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in South Africa, along with the correlation between individuals’ outcomes and their employment history. First, cross-sectional employment outcomes by age (and education) are presented for four 2020 months (February, April, June and October, as measured in NIDS-CRAM). Thereafter, employment dynamics over the year are described and contrasted with employment dynamics from five pre-COVID years (2010-2014, as measured in panels based on the QLFS). We find that several aspects of the churning observed in 2020 far exceed transitions from these benchmark years, with a greater proportion of those without employment at the beginning of the year finding work by the end of the year and much higher job attainment among youth. Finally, we analyse employment outcomes during 2020 according to individuals’ employment history between 2012 and 2017 (as
captured in NIDS waves 3 to 5). We find that employment history correlated strongly with 2020 employment outcomes: individuals with stronger employment histories were more likely to remain stably employed, or, among the non-employed, to find work. This shows the importance of historical context in understanding the employment effects of COVID-19.

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