In the media

The power of data to impact change - with Amina Ebrahim

August 2020

As South Africa commemorates Women’s Month, SA-TIED celebrates the women behind the programme, where over half of research published includes a woman co-author; 53% of participants in capacity-building activities are women; and, 57% of attendees at programme events are women.

Three women from SA-TIED recently joined Phemelo Motene on her SAfm radio show, Life Happens, to discuss research and policy in South Africa, COVID-19 and employment, gender role models, and more. During Women’s Month we will share their profiles and details of their interviews.

The power of data to impact change

Amina Ebrahim is a Research Associate with a particular focus on the use of tax administrative data for research. The work she does is critical for informing policies and in turn translating those polices into improved livelihoods for South Africans.

In conversation on SAfm’s Life Happens, Amina shared how her work can lead to policy impact, “Policy takes a long time to develop and part of our program involves collaborative interface between the research and policy makers. It is also about taking what we know from the research work we’ve done in the past, about  poverty, about gender equality, the wage inequality and now we’re making it available to policy makers.”

Through data collection the programme has been able to identify pockets of impact from government policy and initiatives like the Youth Wage Subsidy. As young people continue to battle unemployment in the country, data indicates that programmes like the Youth Wage Subsidy are not moving the needle on youth unemployment. “The policies are large, but the problems are bigger and sometimes it’s hard to see the policies move, especially as youth unemployment grows quickly and in a large way. One of the things we’ve been studying in the last couple of years at the National Treasury is the Youth Wage Subsidy. And one of the interesting ways to study it is to use the tax data that we get from SARS because this is one of the ways tax incentives have to be claimed. Now from the research that I’ve done it does show that in our small and medium sized firms, jobs are being created. But one of the problems we’re encountering I think in terms of the scale of the problem is that when you have large, large numbers, millions, of youth unemployed, sometimes 100 000 jobs is not enough to move the needle,” she asserts.

As South Africa commemorates Women’s Month, women and young female adults in the job markets continue to be the hardest hit by the COVID-19 epidemic. While it’s still too early to have conclusive data, Amina believes policy makers will need to be more deliberate in creating opportunities for women in the job market. “There will need to be some strengthening of some of our job creation initiatives, women tax incentives, looking at what the gender distribution is going to be there, and how or whether it’s going to be saving jobs, both for men and women.”

Additional research is underway to also look at women and the economy. This is assisting in building some of the policy making capacity within government, informing them on data involving female workers. “We’re only now starting to tap into this information. We have one piece of research that’s looking at how women are progressing in the labour market. We put some interesting things together in terms of how long they stay in the labour market, and also some suggestions for why women disappear from the labour market and most importantly what happens to their earnings,” she says.

The SA-TIED programme produces high-quality and policy-relevant research that offers solutions to the current bottlenecks in the South African economy. You can listen to more of the interview here.