The DPRU’s suite of completed research projects ranges from multi-country collaboration on minimum wages and enforcement, to the efficiency and effectiveness of the economy’s dispute resolution system and the role of bargaining councils in the labour market. The resulting body of new and innovative policy work has arguably made significant advances in our understandings of the South African labour market.

Measuring Job Quality in South Africa

As a result of the global financial crisis in 2008/2009, South Africa lost many jobs. Although employment now exceeds pre-crisis levels, not much is known about potential changes in the quality of employment over this period. If employment growth has disproportionately been towards ‘low quality’ jobs, then that suggests an economy which is struggling to overcome the effects of the financial crisis and that is creating jobs that may be readily shed in future economic downturns. On the other hand, if more ‘high quality’ jobs have been created, then this indicates that the economic recovery has been translated into gains in job quality for workers.

Therefore, our objective in this research is to measure the quality of jobs over time and evaluate whether the quality of jobs and its distribution have changed over time. We will breakdown the results by certain demographic indicators (e.g. gender, age, educational level, and geographic location), sector and formality.

Ultimately, the research aims firstly to construct an aggregate measure of job quality (an index) that can be relatively easily updated and adapted going forward. This would allow for the continued monitoring of the overall quality of jobs on a quarterly basis as Statistics South Africa releases the Quarterly Labour Force Survey.

Funder: The Employment Promotion Programme (EPP)

Outputs: Monnakgotla, J. and Oosthuizen, M. (2021). Job Quality in South Africa: A Proposed Index for Ongoing Monitoring of Job Quality. Development Policy Research Unit Working Paper 202103. DPRU, University of Cape Town.

Inclusive Growth Programme (IGP)

The Inclusive Growth Programme (IGP) was an initiative of the Department of Trade and Industry, established with the aim of identifying, investigating and implementing innovative and practical interventions to the key challenges facing the South African economy. The initiative was established in collaboration with Business and Labour. The IGP’s key strategic objectives were to:

  • Establish a high-level policy forum where Government, Business and Organised Labour could regularly engage constructively with a view to improving economic policy design, policy co-ordination and coherence, joint development of mitigation measures where necessary, and enforcement and compliance of key economic policies.
  • Facilitate transformation of the economy to promote industrial development, investment, competitiveness and employment creation.
  • Facilitate broad-based black economic participation through targeted interventions to achieve more inclusive growth.

The Development Policy Research Unit (DPRU) were the Project Managers for this programme.

Property Crime and Inequality: the Case of South Africa

It is well established in the literature that property crime rates increase with increasing levels of inequality. However, most research in this area comes from contexts of low-to-moderate crime and inequality rates. This paper explores whether this relationship holds in a context of extreme levels of crime and inequality, using South Africa as a case study. We use cross-sectional precinct-level property crime rates from 2011 combined with census data. We perform non-parametric, semi-parametric, and parametric analyses to uncover the nature of the property crime-inequality relationship and find strong evidence of a positive linear relationship between property crime and an interaction term of income with inequality, but strong evidence of a negative relationship between property crime and inequality on its own. This result is robust to various measures of inequality. One explanation for this finding could be that inequality acts as a signal to relatively richer residents in an area (local elites) that they are more at risk of falling victim to crime. As a consequence of this mechanism, local elites start investing in protective measures which could dampen crime rates.


PHASE 1: Towards Resilient Futures Community of Practice: Developing a Fibre Micro-industry to Generate Economic Growth from Degraded Land

Improving the consequences of mining as a case study for diversifying economy in the current legal framework.
Fibre plants such as bamboo can be used to transform degraded land into a restorative agricultural sector and a dynamic manufacturing sector, which provides employment opportunities, inclusive socio-economic growth and poverty reduction in mining communities beyond the life-of-mine. The aim of this multi-disciplinary project is to determine through a Community of Practice whether fibre-rich biomass, including bamboo, can be used to remediate degraded land in a way that is economically feasible, leading to enhanced economic complexity, the establishment of a bamboo micro-industry, and crucially, higher value-add in output and job creation. Read more
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Building Economic Complexity in Africa: Laying the Foundation for Expanding Economic Opportunities for Women and Youth in Africa

Ongoing work here is principally structured around a recent grant received to undertake a two-year research project on the pursuit of Structural Change in Africa.  The work is globally innovative in that we will use the new tools of economic complexity and product space analysis, to provide concrete policy options that enable African economies move from low productivity to high productivity-high growth sectors in a bid to generate broad-based employment opportunities. The project will have two core objectives. Firstly, to measure the degree and extent of economic complexity and hence the level of economic development in a set of key African economies in the region.  Secondly, based on a sample of African countries and through the use of firm surveys, to undertake a detailed product space analysis of each economy.  This analysis will map country product spaces and will try to carefully link these to nearby product opportunities, focused on an expansion in growth opportunities, into those products where the economic returns for young people and women are maximised. To see full list of project outputs, and to read more click here.
Funder: The International Development Research Centre (IDRC)

National Transfer Accounts: The Case of South Africa

Shaping social protection in Africa: Estimates of National Transfer Accounts for South Africa. Funder:The International Development Research Centre (IDRC) through the African Economic Research Consortium (AERC).

Project Outputs: 1. Project report: Maximising South Africa's Demographic Dividend. 

Current NTA project: Funder: The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation 

Gender Analysis of the Department of Trade and Industry Services and Funding Processes

The Department of Women commissioned the DPRU to determine the extent to which women access and benefit from the services offered by the Department of Trade and Industry (the dti). A fieldwork exercise will involve interviews with previous participants of various dti incentives in order to determine the impact of additional funding or support on various pre-determined outcomes.

Counting Women's Work (CWW)

The Counting Women’s Work (CWW) project is a three-year research project (2014-2016) involving research teams from around the world, with the goal of bringing the economic lives of women and girls into view in a more comprehensive manner than ever before. Our work will provide data and analysis to help develop better policies around economic development, care for children and the elderly, investments in human capital, and gender equity in the workplace and the home. Funder: The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the International Development Research Centre.

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Income Inequality Trends in sub-Saharan Africa: Divergence, Determinants, and Consequences

A groundbreaking United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), this study provides policy guidance to reduce income inequality in sub-Saharan Africa. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) underscore the need to address broad inequalities in their quest to ‘leave no-one behind.’ UNDP's Regional Bureau for Africa asserts that inequality levels, trends,determinants and consequences must be analyzed closely – producing a holistic policy approach which matches the integrated and indivisible nature of the 2030 agenda. It is only through addressing the challenge of inequality that progress towards achieving poverty reduction, to be specific, and the SDGs in general, can be accelerated.
Funder: UNDP RBA
Project Outputs: 
Book: Bhorat, H., Conceição, P., Cornia, G.A., and Odusola, A. (2017). Income Inequality Trends in sub-Saharan Africa: Divergence, determinants and consequences. UNDP, New York. ISBN 978-92-1-126424-1 
Chapter 1: Introduction, Motivation and Overview (by Bhorat, H., Conceição, P., Cornia, G.A., and Odusola, A.)
Chapter 5: Understanding the Determinants of Africa’s Manufacturing Malaise (by Bhorat, H., Steenkamp, F. and Rooney, C.)
Chapter 6: Resource Dependence and Inequality in Africa: Impacts, Consequences and Potential Solutions (by Bhorat, H., Chelwa, G., Naidoo, K., and Stanwix, B.)
Chapter 8: Social Protection and Inequality in Africa (by Bhorat, H., Cassim, A., Ewinyu, A. and Steenkamp, F.)
Chapter 17: Conclusions and Policy Recommendations (by Bhorat, H., Conceição, P., Cornia, G.A., and Odusola, A.)
Presentations: Africa Economics Seminar Series – World Bank Africa Chief Economist’s Office (Washington DC, 14th November 2017) and Global Scholar Seminar Series – Brookings Institution (Washington DC, 15th November 2017)
Year Completed: 2018

The 4th Industrial Revolution

Rapid technological advances in robotics, artificial intelligence and machine learning threaten many jobs, especially those in low-skilled sectors. In order to appropriately mitigate potential employment losses as a result of rapid technological advances (often referred to as the 4th Industrial Revolution), a greater understanding of the extent of the risks posed to employment by adoption of new technologies is required. The DPRU embarked on research with a key focus of understanding the implications of the 4th Industrial Revolution for employment in South Africa; Evaluating the opportunities and risks of the 4th Industrial Revolution; and examining the number of jobs at risk of automation in middle-income countries; and in South Africa.

Project Outputs: Papers expected 2019
Year Completed: 2018

Labour Regulation in South Africa – Strike Activity and Minimum Wages

The project is focused on two interlinked labour market issues in the South African economy, namely that of the size, shape and consequence of strike activity in the South African economy, and secondly, the economic consequences of sectoral minimum wage laws and the extent of minimum wage violation. This first component hopes to inject a more objective and informative understanding around the nature of strikes and strike activity in South Africa. In terms of the second component of the research agenda, three core areas arise: Firstly, the project will describe and estimate the medium- to longer-run effects of South Africa’s minimum wage laws. Secondly, using a new technique for measuring minimum wage violation, the researchers hope to examine the evolution of minimum wage violation, particularly in relation to minimum wage adjustments over time. Finally, an area surprisingly overlooked in this literature, is that focusing on the impact of minimum wage legislation on household poverty levels.
Project Outputs: Papers expected in 2019.

Low Income Countries (LIC) in SubSaharan Africa

The paucity of LIC labour market data, its varying quality, and the lack of baseline information makes it essential to provide a broad descriptive and basic econometric overview of a sample of LIC labour markets in sub-Saharan Africa. Specifically, we developed a series of papers that focus on a sample of four African LICs: Kenya, Uganda, Zambia and Tanzania, describing and profiling their labour market in a systematic and consistent way.

Research Project on Employment, Income Distribution and Inclusive Growth

REDI 3x3: The DPRU is responsible for the Inclusive Growth theme, and we are involved in an infrastructure data project (related to the income and expenditure surveys), and papers covering the informal economy, and risk mitigation through micro-insurance, asset poverty and other gaps in current research.
Funder: National Treasury through SALDRU 
Project Outputs: Bhorat, H. and Naidoo, K. (2017). Exploring the relationship between crime-related business insurance and informal firms’ performance: a South African case study. REDI3x3 Working paper #25; February 2017.
Year Completed: 2016

Africa Growth Initiative: Macro Project Phase 2: Exchange Rates, Employment and Earnings

The Real Exchange Rate and Sectorial Employment in South Africa.
Funder: The African Growth Initiative (AGI) at the Brookings Institution
Project Outputs: Working Paper 201404
Year Completed: 2014

Africa Growth Initiative 3: Inflation inequality in South Africa

Understanding differences across households and through inflation cycles.
Funder: The African Growth Initiative (AGI) at the Brookings Institution
Project Output: Working Paper 13/158
Year Completed: 2013

Africa Growth Initiative 2: Analysis of the claims on the UIF

Unemployment Insurance in South Africa: A Descriptive Overview of Claimants and Claims, and the Newly Unemployed and the UIF Take-up Rate in the South African Labour Market.
Funder: The African Growth Initiative (AGI) at the Brookings Institution
Project Output: b. Working Paper 12/147
Year Completed: 2013

Africa Growth Initiative 1: Do Industrial Disputes Reduce Employment? Evidence from South Africa

Measuring employment protection as a function of the quantity and efficiency parameters of the country’s dispute resolution body – the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA).
Funder: The African Growth Initiative (AGI) at the Brookings Institution
Year Completed: 2013

EPP: South African Jobs Losses during the Global Recession

The research is structured as an overview of both international and local labour market changes during the global recession.
Funder: The Employment Promotion Programme (EPP)
Project Output:  Project Report
Year Completed: 2013

EPP: Community Work Programme

The CWP is a government intervention that provides a basic level of income security through part-time work in communities with high unemployment levels. Government aims to scale up CWP to meet a target of 1 million job opportunities by March 2014.
Funder: The Employment Promotion Programme (EPP)
Project Output: Project Report
Year Completed: 2013

Employment Promotion Programme (EPP) Phase Three: FACTSHEETS

Monitoring the Performance of the South African Labour Market.
Funder: The Employment Promotion Programme (EPP)
Project Output: Factsheets
Year Completed: 2013

Minimum wage legislation, enforcement and labour outcomes: Argentina, Costa Rice and South Africa

Understanding and measuring the enforcement of minimum wage laws: the case of SA.
Funder: International Development Research Centre (IDRC)
Project Output: a. Working Paper 12/149
Project Output: b. Journal Article
Project Output: c. Journal Article
Project Output: d. Policy Brief 13/29
Project Output: e. Journal Article
Year Completed: 2013

The Enforcement of Minimum Wage Laws: The Case of Bargaining Councils in South Africa

Institutional Wage Effects: Revisiting Union and Bargaining Council Wage Premia in South Africa.
Funder: International Labour Organisation (ILO)
Project Output: a. Journal Article
Project Output: b. Journal Article
Year Completed: 2012

Municipal Economic Review & Outlook (MERO)

The MERO report is a high profile Provincial Treasury project.  The MERO aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the recent economic performance of and outlook for the Western Cape economy at District / Municipal level. As such it should be viewed as a companion study to its provincial counterpart, the Provincial Economic Review and Outlook (PERO), whilst it also complements and reinforces several other recent studies that have analysed the district and municipal economies within the Western Cape Province. The Province hires the DPRU economist team to model data, that is not publically available, contributing to the Labour Market section of the report.
Funder: Provincial Government of the Western Cape: Treasury
Project Outputs:

Provincial Economic Review & Outlook (PERO)

Annual research report which provides an objective review and analysis of past and estimated future economic growth and socio-economic development of the Western Cape. The DPRU has been involved in the PERO publication since 2005, and has annually contributed a chapter on the provincial labour market.
Funder: Provincial Government of the Western Cape: Treasury
Project Outputs:

Low Paid Work in South Africa

This research focuses specifically on low pay among workers in wage employment over the period 2001 to 2007.
Funder: ILO (the ILO's Conditions of Work and Employment Programme)
Project Output: a. Journal Article
Year Completed: 2012