The relationship between sectoral characteristics and HIV risk factors and vulnerability

SOURCE: Labour Markets and Social Frontiers
OUTPUT TYPE: Journal Article
DEPARTMENT: Economic Perfomance and Development (EPD)
Intranet: HSRC Library: shelf number 3111

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Research to date indicates that the impact of Human Immunodeficiency Virus/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (HIV/Aids) on economic sectors and individual companies is mediated by a complex interplay between specific demographic profiles and other socio-economic factors including skills and income profiles, especially given historical inequities and segmentation in the labour market. This potentially underpins the sector-differentiated patterns of HIV prevalence and Aids mortality. However, what is less explored is the role of structural and organisational factors specific to an industry or company in this differentiated impact, to the extent that they contribute to conditions that increase or decrease susceptibility to HIV infection, or indeed vulnerability and exposure to increased Aids costs. The mobility of workers in high HIV prevalence sectors, such as mining and transport, for example, has clearly been established as a risk factor in increasing the propensity for unsafe sexual practices and thus likely exposure to HIV infection. This paper proposes that while the demographic profile of the workforce is a key first indicator of susceptibility, sector/company-specific structural factors may provide more nuanced interpretations of HIV/Aids dynamics across sectors. These factors may be endogenous or exogenous to a company or sector, and they may shape the nature of interventions, as well as resource allocation to mitigate the impact of HIV/Aids. While an attempt will also be made to provide supporting empirical evidence, this may be limited, especially given the lack of such information in the public domain. Also, where sector/company information is available it is not necessarily disaggregated, and does not unpack internal dynamics. The evidence on the macroeconomic impact of HIV/Aids remains varied, ranging from econometric studies projecting a relatively modest impact, to a recent World Bank report predicting "economic collapse" within the next three generations in the absence of significant nterventions. However, given the long-term nature of the epidemic, it is likely that increased levels of morbidity and mortality are likely to be felt earlier at the micro and meso levels (individual, household, company and sector), before the cumulative effect becomes apparent and feeds through to the macroeconomy. Further, in a labour surplus economy such as South Africa, the impact of losses of unskilled labour (predicted to have the highest HIV infection levels) are likely to be less apparent in productivity declines, and thus aggregate unit labour costs. Finally, modest projected impacts at macroeconomic level may indeed mask more marked effects at company and sector levels, given their heterogeneous nature.