Socio-Economic Technical Papers (SETP) No. 14

The economic value of incremental employment in the South African construction sector

A report commissioned by the International Labour Organisation for the support of the Efficient Application of Labour-based methods in the construction sector

The macro-economic case for using labour-based, as opposed to equipment-intensive technology in the infrastructure and construction sectors, has been made in many developing countries on the grounds of lower unit costs, increased employment generation, higher contribution to GDP, higher multiplier effects, higher levels of household income and consumption, reduced foreign exchange requirements and hence, reduced import dependency. These conclusions apply to countries characterized by surplus labour, low wages and a weak local industrial capacity to produce tools and equipment. The ILO commissioned a study to investigate whether the macro-economic outcomes of labour-based versus equipment-based construction would still favour the labour-based option in South Africa, where higher wages and an established domestic industry producing equipment create a different situation. The study makes an important contribution to the debate on the macro-economic potential of labour-based investment technology not only in South Africa, but also more generally in the context of global efforts to foster employment-intensive growth - where economically cost effective and technically feasible - with a view to combatting poverty and reducing inequalities.