Turning the tide on inequality

Under this work stream UNU-WIDER, the National Treasury (NT), and the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) will work jointly to address distributional issues in both the bottom half and the top of the income distribution. While South Africa’s peaceful transition from racial domination to democracy is rightly acclaimed, lack of progress towards a more balanced distribution of opportunities and income raises difficult political and economic questions. What kinds of social, economic or institutional change might contribute to more rapid transformation of opportunities for the bottom half of the household income distribution? What kinds of constraints on power and privilege might contribute to fairer outcomes at the top tail of the distribution? These are practical and political questions of interest both in South Africa and internationally, and they are economic and institutional questions of considerable complexity.

The research will further explore topics, such as the shape of the personal income tax curve, pricing of public health services, housing finance, regulation of land ownership, and access to vocational education. The determinants of opportunity at the bottom and the top of the income distribution have both common features and important differences.

The aim is to examine both commonalities and divergences, and explore options for reform that might yield better outcomes. The intention also is to explore the inter-connections between different aspects of social, institutional and economic progress — how patterns of educational opportunity relate to labour market outcomes, how household living conditions affect schooling or health, how urban–rural linkages relate to earnings trends, for example.

Research Brief
The two primary features of a job are its wage and how long it lasts. Today, there is an extensive literature on wages in the developing world thanks to the expansion of national household survey...
December 2020
Working paper
Ihsaan Bassier
I study wage increases negotiated by sectoral bargaining councils in South Africa using the tax panel data from 2008 to 2018. By isolating all large contracted wage increases in a stacked event-study design, I investigate...
November 2020
Working paper
Caro Janse Van Rensburg, Carli Bezuidenhout, Marianne Matthee, and Victor Stolzenburg
Inequality has been rising in most countries for several decades, with negative consequences for social cohesion and economic growth. Substantial gender wage gaps contribute significantly to overall wage inequality. We look at an often-overlooked driver...
August 2020
Technical workshop
4 Aug 2020 / 10:00 to 11 Nov 2020 / 14:00
SA-TIED will hold a 5-day online training course on using the data analysis software, R. The course will build capacity and support South African officials to manage and use economic data to carry out policy-relevant...
Working paper
Takwanisa Machemedze, Andrew Kerr, and Rob Dorrington
The existing sources of demographic data for South Africa have different strengths and limitations that make them inadequate for calibration of sample weights in post-apartheid South African household surveys. The official mid-year population estimates produced...
July 2020
Working paper
Andrew Kerr
The IRP5 and IT3(a) tax data from the South African Revenue Service have been made available to researchers through a joint project between the South African Revenue Service, the National Treasury, and UNU-WIDER. In this...
May 2020