Challenging inequalities through policy relevant academic research.


December 2020

Dear Friends,

As SALDRU winds down for the year-end break, we hope that everyone is doing as well as possible given the circumstances. This has been a challenging year. A year overwhelmingly defined by the COVID-19 pandemic; which has brought illness, death, isolation, disruption and economic hardship to so many people around the world.

At the same time, Saldrupians have persisted and even excelled at what we do, despite all of these difficulties. This bears testimony to the dedication and commitment shown by every member of the SALDRU family, and we thank them wholeheartedly for their contributions.

This pandemic will not continue forever. With the development of multiple vaccines, the disease will be controlled and probably eradicated with time. We really look forward to the day when we can safely go back to our offices and enjoy the interpersonal interactions in our day-to-day activities, which is likely to happen sometime in 2021.

This month’s newsletter reports on a presentation made by Ariane de Lannoy to the Ministerial Cluster for the Economic Sectors, Investment, Employment and Infrastructure Development (ESIEID) on the Youth Explorer. This project has grown from strength to strength under her leadership, and is now an important component of the Presidential Youth Employment Intervention.

We also share an interesting report from SALDRU affiliate Ruediger Helm. He discusses a legal case from Germany on ‘What constitutes a legal employment relationship in the gig-economy?’. This has important ramifications in a world that is seeing an increase in the levels of informality for workers, as it affects the rights and protections that workers are entitled to receive.

On the people front, we are extremely proud to announce that Brendan Maughan-Brown has been awarded a national rating of C2 by the NRF. This is an excellent outcome for a young researcher, and is thoroughly well-deserved recognition for his prolific research output.

This has been an exhausting year, and we hope that everyone finds the time to relax over the break. Be safe, enjoy the festive season, and we’ll be in touch again in January 2021.

Best wishes,

Murray Leibbrandt
Director, SALDRU
Vimal Ranchhod
Deputy Director, SALDRU

Youth Explorer team presents to the ESIEID Ministerial Cluster

Image: Alex Litvin on Unsplash.

In early December, Ariane de Lannoy presented to the Ministerial Cluster for the Economic Sectors, Investment, Employment and Infrastructure Development (ESIEID), on behalf of the Youth Explorer team and as part of the Presidential Youth Employment Intervention. The presentation included a demonstration of the Youth Explorer to inform the Cluster of the work that SALDRU and OpenUp conduct with regards to the mapping of services available to young people. The team received very positive feedback and this will hopefully encourage the utilization of the Youth Explorer platform by all departments in planning the delivery of services and interventions aimed at young people. Read more.

The Platform Economy: Is a crowdworker an employee? Lessons from Germany

Image: Pixabay on Pexels.

“A skilled crowd. Anytime, anywhere,” is the slogan that crowd-sourcing platform company Roamler uses to advertise its services. Roamler is a company that deploys secret shoppers to retail outlets to assess whether retailers are appropriately displaying and advertising products in their stores. Roamler is one of a profusion of new platform companies currently disrupting the labour market by utilizing innovative definitions to describe the people it deploys to do its work.

Perhaps the most famous case of a platform company refusing to define the people that work for it as employees is Uber, which refers to its drivers as “independent contractors”. These innovative definitions are proving to be a major problem because they signal structural changes in the relationship between employers and employees, while simultaneously diminishing workers’ rights. As such there have been multiple cases brought against Uber globally to get Uber to recognise its drivers as employees, including in South Africa, so that they can be protected by labour legislation. Similarly, a case was brought against Roamler in Germany by a so-called member of the crowd who was legally represented in the German Federal Labour Court by SALDRU affiliate, Dr Ruediger Helm. Read more.


Brendan Maughan-Brown receives NRF C2 rating

At the end of November, Brendan Maughan-Brown received a National Research Foundation (NRF) C2 rating. Congratulations on this recognition of research standing Brendan!


Locked down and locked out: Repurposing social assistance as emergency relief to informal workers

The COVID-19 pandemic presents a particular challenge to countries with high levels of labour market informality. Informal workers and their households are especially vulnerable to the negative economic consequences of the pandemic and associated lockdown measures, while the very fact of their informality makes it difficult for governments to quickly provide targeted economic relief. Using South Africa as a case study, the authors examine how an established social assistance system – not originally designed to support informal workers – can be re-purposed to provide emergency relief to these workers and their households. They examine how expansions of this system on the intensive margin (increasing the value of existing social grants) and extensive margin (introducing a new feasibly-implemented grant) can be used to mitigate this COVID-19-associated poverty. The authors compare the efficacy of the different policies by using pre-pandemic nationally representative household survey data to project how a negative shock to informal incomes can be mitigated by the different social grant measures, with a particular emphasis on poverty impacts. Access here (share link valid until 27 January 2021).

Citation: Bassier, I., Budlender, J., Zizzamia, R., Leibbrandt, M. and Ranchhod, V., 2021. Locked down and locked out: Repurposing social assistance as emergency relief to informal workers. World Development, 139.

For more SALDRU working papers, journal article contributions and policy briefs, please visit OpenSALDRU.


SALDRU Annual General Meeting

Image: Gerd Altmann on Pixabay.

SALDRU held its 2020 Annual General Meeting (AGM) virtually on 9 December. SALDRU Deputy Director Vimal Ranchhod opened the AGM with an overview of SALDRU’s experiences through this challenging year. Despite the difficulties and restrictions that COVID-19 introduced, the SALDRU team reached a number of milestones through the year. SALDRU Director Murray Leibbrandt then followed with a discussion on succession planning and SALDRU in 2021. SALDRU’s Administrative and Finance Officer, Tania Hendricks, then gave an overview of SALDRU financials and operations over the 2020 year.

SALDRU year-end party

Image: Screenshot of the team saying "cheers" to 2020. Photo: Kim Ingle.

SALDRU was due to have its year-end party at Kirstenbosch this year. A responsible socially-distanced picnic was planned, but given the recent uptick in COVID-19 infections, the difficult decision was taken to cancel the in-person event in favour of a virtual 1-hour year-end function. The event was an emotional affair, despite the virtual format naturally limiting interaction. Saldrupians shared their personal high- and low-points from the year, which allowed for some much-needed closure from a challenging year. We ended the event with a "cheers" to 2020.


SALDRU Seminars

Please note: In order to decrease risk and spread of the COVID-19, as well as aligning with the university's decision on minimising gatherings, all SALDRU seminars are cancelled until further notice.

For information about past and future seminars, click here. To subscribe to our seminar mailing list, click here.
New Frame, 26 November
Ruling deals crushing blow to zero-hours contracts

New Frame, 11 November
Impoverished people to reap putrid economic crop
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