Uncovering SA's potential

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Two separate but inter-related Research Chairs are delving into crucial aspects of social and economic disparities in the country.

Inequality.  (Supplied)

Professor Murray Leibbrandt of the University of Cape Town’s Research Chair, Poverty and Inequality Research, draws on survey data to estimate poverty and changes in inequality levels across the country.

He explains that he has been conducting a study for the Presidency since 2008, called the National Income Dynamic Study, that provides a crucial measure of how 28 000 households have been performing in aspects such as income, expenditure, progress in school, transition from schooling into the labour market, health status and others.

This data has enabled him to delve deeper into the dynamics of social mobility in contemporary South Africa from an academic point of view to build a better understanding of the data, while also bolstering research capacity in the students involved in his research programme.

One of the outcomes of his work has been in gaining a better understanding of the impact of grants on households’ ability to deal with poverty. 

He says that this research has been able to counter negative knee-jerk responses to grants and the perceived culture of dependency, especially around teen pregnancy that has anecdotally increased to access such grants.

Professor Jimi Adesina of the University of South Africa (Unisa) was appointed to the Chair in Social Policy and Family in 2013 to look at how policy is able to create an environment that enhances and sustains human wellbeing.

His work touches on the extent to which policies related to education, healthcare, family, the labour market and the aged could be transformative.

His work overlaps with that of Leibbrandt in the area of the social grants system, although he is more concerned with looking at how to change perceptions and attitudes of this as a social investment rather than simply state expenditure.

His research is therefore looking at the impact on social cohesion as the result of the long-term investment in instruments such as grants, free schooling and the National Health Insurance to improve the country’s means. 

He explains that another area of research will be to explore the possibilities for poverty alleviation through African innovations such as the stokvel. 

He says this is often viewed as a micro savings instrument, when in fact it plays a much bigger social upliftment role than many people realize.

This supplement has been paid for by Department of Science and Technology and its contents signed off by the DST and the National Research Foundation.

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