Challenging inequalities through policy relevant academic research.


October 2020

Dear Friends,

Our October newsletter leads with a posting from J-PAL Africa from their Digital Identification and Finance Initiative. The team have been collaborating with various stakeholders to think about innovative ways in which digital technology can be used to mitigate some of the adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of their work is on the role that a digital Universal Basic Income grant could have to enhance resilience during the pandemic. They are also active members of the G7 partnership on women’s digital financial inclusion in Africa. The work that they highlight is as interesting as it is important, and highlights the depth and breadth of expertise across the SALDRU family.

More generally, Saldrupians have been keeping busy with our research and dissemination activities. The Siyaphambili team, led by Dr Nicola Branson, have presented three webinars on post-school research in South Africa. The events showcased some of their ongoing research, as well as the interactive website that they launched. We also have two new working papers from members of the team, with Emma Whitelaw and Jackie Mosomi as the first authors of these two papers respectively.

SALDRU’s youth research group, which is led by Chief Research Officer Ariane De Lannoy, shared some of the findings from their recent survey and held an outreach event on social media. They have also entered into an exciting broader collaboration with other stakeholders who work in the youth policy arena.

Best wishes,

Murray Leibbrandt
Director, SALDRU
Vimal Ranchhod
Deputy Director, SALDRU

The role of digital identification and payments in supporting resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic

Image: Intersect.

The Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) Africa, based within SALDRU, launched the Digital Identification and Finance Initiative (DigiFI Africa) in 2019. DigiFI Africa generates rigorous evidence on how African governments, private companies, and NGOs can leverage digital payments and identification systems to improve lives through better public service delivery, governance, and financial inclusion. This month we highlight two updates from the DigiFI Africa team - DigiFI’s involvement in the G7 partnership on women’s digital financial inclusion, and recent findings on the role of a Universal Basic Income (UBI) in supporting pandemic resilience. Read more.

REFA Festival

Image: Hamish Sharma on Pixabay.

The 2020 Rethinking Economics for Africa (REFA) Festival was themed “practical action towards a pluralist economics curriculum”. Vimal Ranchhod participated in a panel on this year’s virtual REFA Festival, on pedagogy and teaching inequality. He spoke about experiences relating to the honours course on Economics of Inequality that he and Murray Leibbrandt co-teach and introduced at UCT last year. Watch Vimal’s input here (his input starts at 21 minutes 26 seconds).

Siyaphambili post-school researchers in the media

Image: OCV Photo on Unsplash.

In the last month, Nicola Branson was interviewed on Power FM and Voice of the Cape radio stations about the Siyaphambili Post-school Research Group’s work on tertiary student access to remote learning resources. This followed an article published by Emma Whitelaw, Samantha Culligan and Nicola Branson in the Daily Maverick, which highlighted that students were likely to return to campuses on an unequal footing as lockdown level 1 came into effect across institutions. Read the article here, or listen to Nicola Branson’s interview with Power FM here.

The recent launch of the Siyaphambili website is also attracting media interest. Samantha Culligan was interviewed about the website on Radio786 and Nicola Branson on ClassicFM and MetroFM. A number of media houses have also recently published about the Siyaphambili website and the research on tertiary students’ access to remote learning resources. These articles have been included in the “In the media” section of this newsletter.

Youth lockdown surveys ignite plans for a youth research and advocacy consortium

Image: Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.

During the first strict phase of the COVID-19 lockdown, SALDRU collaborated with UNICEF and a range of other partners to reach out to young people aged 18 – 34 via an online survey. The questionnaire was hosted on UNICEF’s UReport South Africa portal and was aimed at understanding how young people had been impacted by the pandemic, how their lives were affected by the lockdown, and what support they needed during and beyond the lockdown. Findings of the survey are now available and form the basis for further collaboration with civil society and academic partners, with a focus on developing a youth research and advocacy consortium. Read more.


Private transfers and graduate responsibilities: Evidence from the National Income Dynamics Study

Using information on private transfers (remittances) captured in the National Income Dynamics Study (NIDS), this working paper quantitatively explores a case study of black tax. The authors interrogate whether Black graduates of post-secondary education face disproportionate responsibilities to meet family needs because of an increased ability to offer financial support. The authors find that the probability of remitting is higher for graduates, even once individual income, employment and living arrangements are controlled for. In addition, graduates’ labour market income has a weaker relationship with the probability of remitting, compared to other individuals. Together, these results are consistent with graduates facing a responsibility regardless of their income level, and owing to their graduate status alone. This study on graduate responsibilities as a manifestation of black tax has implications for policies aiming to disrupt intergenerational social inequality, policies aimed at altering saving behaviours in the economy, or policies for funding post-secondary education. Access here or a brief of the paper here.

Citation:  Whitelaw, E., Branson, B. (2020). Private transfers and graduate responsibilities: Evidence from the National Income Dynamics Study. Cape Town: SALDRU, UCT. (SALDRU Working Paper No. 270).

Unpacking the potential implications of COVID-19 for gender inequality in the SA labour market

Previous economic downturns have tended to disproportionately affect male employment due to greater contractions in industries typically filled by men. However, the health risk nature of the COVID-19 pandemic and policies enforced to contain it will disproportionately affect the services industry; the largest employer of women. This study highlights how the COVID-19 pandemic might exacerbate gender inequality in the South African labour market. The authors utilize occupational context data from the O*NET Survey (US Department of Labour) to characterize COVID-19 risk in two ways: work physically proximate enough to make infection likely, and work that requires regular exposure to infectious diseases. These measures are merged with the Post-Apartheid Labour Market series (PALMS) to describe the distribution of risk in South Africa shortly before the pandemic. The results show that although similar proportions of men and women work in proximate occupations, women are more likely to be exposed to infectious diseases in their jobs due to their clustering in occupations like domestic work, personal care, nursing, and clerking. The results suggest that the high interpersonal nature of women’s work, together with the fact that women still carry a larger share of childcare responsibilities, puts them at a greater disadvantage in terms of income or job loss as a result of COVID-19. Access here.

Citation:  Mosomi, J., Thornton, A., Branson, B. (2020). Unpacking the potential implications of Covid-19 for gender inequality in the South African labour market. Cape Town: SALDRU, UCT. (SALDRU Working Paper No.269).

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

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.
UCT News, 16 October
Interactive website tracks SA’s post-school qualifications

Africa Check, 8 October
FACTSHEET: South African service delivery in 1994 – what we do and don’t know

IT Web, 28 September
Digital dearth limits remote learning at SA varsities, colleges

IT-Online, 25 September
Resources for students to benefit from remote learning are inadequate

Eyewitness News, 24 September
Many students lack adequate resources for remote learning, UCT study reveals

Polity, 23 September
Inequalities hamper remote learning in S Africa – UCT study
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