Unemployment and underemployment are persistent issues in sub-Saharan Africa, where informal work represents 85% of total employment. This sector has been particularly hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused a massive global economic recession, resulting in substantial hardship for many workers.
The Development Policy Research Unit (DPRU) at UCT has been actively engaged in research relating to economic and social policy for more than three decades. The DPRU and the Department of Science and Innovation/National Research Foundation South African Research Chair (SARChI) for Economic Growth, Poverty and Inequality are the international focal point for African work on understanding the impact of minimum wages – and their enforcement – in the region.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic in South Africa, the DPRU is examining the economic effects of the pandemic and lockdowns on the labour market. It provided valuable empirical evidence on key socioeconomic outcomes, such as the risk of workplace transmission, and investigated government’s social assistance measures. Their research suggests that targeted income relief to vulnerable workers and households should be prioritised in the short-term.
Research through the SARChI Chair in Creation of Decent Work and Sustainable Livelihood focuses on the idea that determining wages based on economic factors alone – without psychological variables – is insufficient, and that a wage that allows for a decent life can be determined using psychological indicators.
The Basic Package of Support (BPS), led by UCT’s Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit (SALDRU), is providing the basis to support South African youth who are not in employment, education or training. The BPS programme helps them to better navigate opportunities, firstly by discussing viable pathways and co-creating an action plan, and secondly, through partnerships between government, non-profit and private sector role-players.