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Understanding the efficiency and effectiveness of the dispute-resolution system in South Africa: An analysis of CCMA data

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Corporate author/s:

University of Cape Town, School of Economics, Development Policy Research Unit (DPRU)

Person/s author/s:

Bhorat, Haroon; Ncube, Liberty; Pauw, Kalie


research report



While the economic growth performance in the first decade of democracy continues to be justifiably lauded, severe and seemingly intractable welfare challenges remain. Nowhere is this welfare need more acute than within the area of labour markets. An economy characterized by one of the highest unemployment rates in the world   officially at 26.7 per cent and 38.8 per cent when discouraged workers are included  is a stark reminder of the post-apartheid economy's challenge going forward. In turn however, the difficulties noted above within the labour market, have placed the idea of labour market reform  in particular labour regulatory reform high on the agenda of pertinent policy issues in South Africa. A combination of the intrinsic nature of these issues and the fact that the society is characterised by a strong, vocal trade union movement   has meant that reforming the labour market has become a highly contested policy issue in South Africa. This paper, while broadly located within this policy debate, is specifically focused on one aspect of the labour regulatory regime, namely the dispute resolution system. Hence, we attempt to understand the efficiency and effectiveness of the country's institutionalised dispute resolution body, the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA). A better and more informed understanding of the nature of dispute resolution and its determinants, it would seem, remains central to any detailed debate regarding labour market institutions in particular and labour market regulation in general. Ultimately then, the study intends to empirically verify the patterns of dispute referral, settlement and determination regionally, sectorally and historically. It should be noted at the outset, that this paper reflects, very overtly, an economic analysis and interpretation of dispute resolution in South Africa.

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