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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.

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.Read more

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.

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 has 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.

Funder: This research is commissioned by the Employment Promotion Programme (EPP).

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.

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)

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.