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Author ORCID Identifier


Campus-Only Access for Five (5) Years

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Léonce Ndikumana

Second Advisor

James Heintz

Third Advisor

Ina Ganguli

Fourth Advisor

Jane Fountain

Subject Categories



This dissertation explores how trade and technology influence the labor market in a developing country context and constructs a framework within which to conceptualize the constraints to employment growth. The first essay examines the nature of deindustrialization in South Africa and the extent to which it is an outcome of import competition from China. I analyze the effect of rising Chinese import competition between 1997 and 2017 on industry-level manufacturing employment. I further analyze the effect of Chinese import competition on local labor markets in South Africa, by exploiting variation in import exposure across districts that are due to initial differences in industrial structure. The results suggest that local districts more exposed to Chinese import competition experienced a reduction in the share of primary sector employment, an increased share of tertiary employment and higher rates of unemployment. The second essay asks two main questions. First, what is the relationship between firm-level innovation and export performance? Second, what is the direct effect of innovation on employment, while accounting for the indirect innovation-export linkages? The essay uses a novel longitudinal administrative dataset of all firms registered to pay tax in South Africa over 2010-2016. The results show a positive and significant relationship between innovation and export performance. In addition, after accounting for self-selection and firm fixed effects, the results show that direct innovation positively impacts employment growth in manufacturing firms, however, R&D-induced exports -- the indirect channel -- negatively impacts employment growth. The overall impact of innovation on employment growth remains positive. In the third essay, I construct a theoretical framework to analyze employment growth that builds on Keynesian and classical approaches to understanding labor demand. The framework is empirically applied on ten developing countries. The results show a strong association between investment and employment growth across the sample of countries, which is stronger for the group of high unemployment countries. Furthermore, for the high unemployment countries, there is a stronger negative association between the capital-intensity of production and employment growth. Therefore, the factors underpinning low investment rates and rising capital-intensity of production are identified as key constraints to employment growth in these countries.


Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.