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Current Projects

The DPRU is currently engaged in a variety of interesting and diverse projects and studies.  Our research programme has recently been able to enter new terrain, principally through the availability of unique or new datasets.  Be it the data on recipients of unemployment insurance, or dispute resolution, or even strikes, these novel datasets have opened up an entirely new and rich set of economic and econometric questions, which were not previously possible.

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.

Funder: The International Development Research Centre (IDRC)
Project Outputs:
Presented at the Canadian Development Economics Group Conference, and at the IDRC Seminar in Ottawa, Canada, 31 May - 4 June 2016.
Papers expected in early 2018.

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
For more information visit

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
Project Outputs:
3. Bonus or Mirage? South Africa's Demographic Dividend, The Journal of the Economics of Ageing. 

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 are developing 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.

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 late 2017.

Communities of Practice: The Economic Opportunities of Plant Biomass

Funder: IDRC
This research is motivated ultimately by the need to create employment and reduce poverty in South Africa. We aim to provide an analytical contribution towards achieving this NDP goal. In doing so, we intend to focus on a particular product category – bamboo or possibly other hardy plants – in a bid to understand the elements required for growing this sector. Making the argument for this sector as an investable proposition however, requires an understanding of the economic, legal, materials engineering, bio-production and environmental elements of this specific product. It remains impossible to convert the area of hardy plants or bamboo specifically, into a viable poverty-reducing node of economic activity without this cross-disciplinary engagement around the product.
This proposed COP research programme intends to do this in a very deliberate manner. Our aim is to determine 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, higher value-add in output and job creation.
To do this, several environmental, chemical processing, economic and legal questions need to be answered. Our research methodology draws on the fields of economics, environmental science, law and materials science. We will combine techniques such as input-output tables, product space techniques, life cycle analysis, firm, government and expert interviews and legislative comparison throughout the study.