October 2023

IZA DP No. 16507: Minimum Wages and Unemployment during Economic Shocks

This paper studies whether a minimum wage changes how labour markets respond to economic shocks. Using data from South Africa, we show that an agricultural minimum wage leads to higher mean wages with no significant impacts on mean employment. However, these positive aggregate outcomes hide important heterogeneity: the imposition of the minimumwage leads to substantial declines in employment - especially overall hours - in the sector in the wake of negative weather-related economic shocks, which typically exert downward pressure on wages. The increased variance of employment across years in the post-law period suggests caution in interpreting the overall welfare impacts of minimum wage laws.