LMI programme > Publications

Jobs? What jobs? Skills? What skills? An overview of studies examining relationships between education and training and labour markets

Date posted:


Publication year:


Corporate author/s:

Labour Market Intelligence Partnership (LMIP); Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET); Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)

Person/s author/s:

Allais, Stephanie; Nathan, Oliver


working paper



This paper seeks to provide a discussion of South African and International literature concerning transitions (pathways) studies as well as the state of theory and analysis used in understanding the evolving relationship between education and work. Much of the South African and International research makes use of longitudinal or panel survey research designs which trace the school-to-work pathways of a youth cohorts over a period of a few years, examining individual decision-making in educational choices. While in this literature, broader socio-economic structures are considered as possible obstacles to successful transitions, structural constraints are underexamined. In this paper, we briefly explore some theories that attempt to explain relationships between education and the labour market, including human capital theory, education as a positional good, education as a proxy for trainability, education as legitimized means for social inclusion and exclusion, and more recently, the idea of the global auction, as well as the idea of the educational transformation of work. This is followed by an overview of some of the international literature which points to the structure of the labour market as a major determinant of the quality of vocational and professional education, as well as literature which examines the relationship between broader social policy and levels of general and specific skills. These are all areas which are not well researched in South Africa, and we suggest key areas for research interventions.

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