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Events 2020

Future of Work(ers) Webinar
Confronting algorithmic control: platform work and sources of worker power

Date: 10 December 2020 | Time: 15:00 – 16:30 pm SAST

The impact of digital technologies on the world of work and inequality has been the subject of significant debate. While some argue that digitalisation will increase productivity, growth and employment, others suggest that it is likely to exacerbate the decades' long tendency towards informality. The gig economy is characterised by increasingly precarious workers, who are Subject to the invisible control of an algorithm. However, the terms of digitalisation are neither predetermined nor linear. Drawing on three case studies from the global South, this webinar explores: How are digital technologies reshaping the labour process? What are the implications of digitalisation for the conditions of work and welfare? What new sources of worker power have emerged? How are workers organising to secure more just and dignified working conditions?

  • Prof Eddie Webster and Fikile Masikane, Southern Centre for Inequality Studies (South Africa)
  • Rosimina Ali, Institute for social and Economic Studies (Mozambique)
  • Veronica Velez, Global Labour University Alum (Colombia)

Chaired by Prof Imraan Valodia, Southern Centre for Inequality Studies (South Africa)

Beyond UBI: Reimagining Comprehensive Social Protection in the Global South

Date: 26 November 2020 | Time: 15:00 – 16:30 pm SAST | RSVP 

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrust the question of social protection into the limelight as states scramble to respond to its socioeconomic fallout. Drawing on four cases from the global South, the webinar explores what it means to reimagine comprehensive social protection in states with limited capacity. Speakers will critically engage with dominant conceptions of social protection, discuss the contradictory role of development agencies in shaping the design and implementation of social protection system, and debate the possibilities and limitations of digital technologies in expanding social protection coverage.

  • Professor Ravi Srivastava, Institute for Human Development, India
  • Thandiwe Matthews, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa
  • Professor Zerihun Berhane, Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia
  • Olívia Faite Izidine, National Institute for Social Action, Mozambique
  • Chaired by Professor Edward Webster

 Black empowerment, affirmative action and the racist economy: Have we failed, and if so, why?

Date: Thursday, 29 October 2020 | Time: 16:00 - 18:00 pm CAT
India | USA | Malaysia| South Africa 

South Africa has been a democracy with equality before the law for more than two decades, but its economy is marked by racialized inequality, to an extreme degree, in patterns of employment, labour market outcomes and the ownership of productive assets. Policy to transform the racial composition of the private ownership, corporate structures and managerial hierarchies have advanced under the banner of “Black economic empowerment”. Most agree that progress has been glacial. Systemic racism remains entrenched.

The emergence of the “black lives matter movement” in the US has put wind in the sails of efforts to overcome systemic racism. It has also underscored the centrality of action to address race-based economic exclusion to the transformation of society. South Africa, Malaysia, India and the United States have approached the struggle for racial and caste equity in different ways. There are lessons from their achievements and their setbacks that all can learn from. The webinar will explore these comparative experiences.

This event forms part of a SCIS review of black economic policy in South Africa undertaken with support of the Open Society Foundation (OSF).

Guest Speakers
  • Ashwini Deshpande is Professor of Economics and Founding Director of the Centre for Economic Data and Analysis (CEDA) at Ashoka University, India.
  • Darrick Hamilton is joint Professor of Economics and Urban Policy and Director of the doctoral program in public and urban policy, at The Milano School of International Affairs and The New School for Social Research at The New School in New York.
  • Hwok-Aun Lee (PhD) is a Senior Fellow at the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute, Singapore.
  • Vuyo Jack CA(SA) is the executive chairman of the South African BEE rating agency, Empowerdex.

Dr Nomfundo Xenia Ngwenya, Visiting Research Fellow: Wits School of Governance| Southern Centre for Inequality Studies

Register now

RSVP: | Technical enquiries:

Zoom meeting details to be provided on RSVP

SCIS Annual Inequality Lecture

11 August 2020

The Southern Centre for Inequality Studies invites you to our annual inequality lecture titled:

Inequality in a Global Perspective

This lecture will explore the factual, causal and policy dimensions of the intricate patterns of inequality change within and between countries over the last three decades.

Speaker: Professor Ravi Kanbur

Ravi Kanbur researches and teaches in development economics, public economics and economic theory at Cornell University. He is well known for his role in policy analysis and engagement in international development. He has served on the senior staff of the World Bank including as Chief Economist for Africa. He has taught at Oxford, Cambridge, Princeton, Essex, Warwick and Columbia. He has also published in the leading economics journals, including Journal of Political Economy, American Economic Review, Review of Economic Studies, Journal of Economic Theory and Economic Journal.
He is Co-Chair of the Food Economics Commission and Co-Chair of the Scientific Council of the International Panel on Social Progress. The positions he has held include: Chair of the Board of United Nations University-World Institute for Development Economics Research, member of the OECD High Level Expert Group on the Measurement of Economic Performance, President of the Human Development and Capability Association, President of the Society for the Study of Economic Inequality, member of the High Level Advisory Council of the Climate Justice Dialogue, and member of the Core Group of the Commission on Global Poverty.

Fuller Speaker Bio

Date: Tuesday, 11 August 2020 | Time: 16h00 - 17h30 South Africa Time | Online Lecture: Join the lecture HERE. No RSVP or registration required. 

For enquiries: Nthabi Mofokeng

Presentation-Inequality in a Global Perspective

“Labour in the Boardroom"    


  • Prof. Dr. Manfred Wannöffel - Director of the Office for Cooperation between Ruhr-Universität Bochum and the German Metalworkers’ Union (IG Metall)
  • Christine Bischoff and Arabo Ewinyu - Wits City Institute and Wits University, SCIS
  • Ruth Ntlokotse - Second Deputy President, NUMSA) and
  • Peter Leon - Partner and Africa Co-chair: Herbert Smith Freehills LLP

Date: 24 March 2020 | Time: 17H30 – 21H00 | Venue: Investec Room, Parktown Management Campus

Recent research on the impact of worker directors on the boards of companies – what is called co-determination – challenges popular views that labour in the boardroom would give workers more power to demand better wages and benefits.

In the early nineties, extensive debate took place on the desirability of introducing co-determination in South African enterprises to safeguard against compromises by various social partners. As a result, co-determination was introduced at plant level through workplace forums. Labour has largely ignored the right to trigger a workplace forum contained in chapter five of the Labour Relations Act viewing it as a threat to union power. However, the loss of hegemony at plant level in many COSATU-led unions and the commitment of the President, Cyril Ramaphosa, to greater worker participation in enterprise, has placed the question of worker directors back on the policy agenda.

Kindly note, a related workshop is scheduled for the 25th of March, kindly RSVP requesting further information if you wish to attend.

For enquiries and RSVP contact: Nthabi Mofokeng  

Events 2019

CIS Annual Inequality Lecture

Half the Sky? How Social Norms and Gender Discrimination Shape Women's Work 

The Southern Centre for Inequality Studies takes great pleasure in inviting you to the inaugural SCIS Annual Inequality Lecture. The 2019 lecture will be delivered by Professor Ashwini Deshpande, from Ashoka University in India. 

Ashwini Deshpande is Professor of Economics at Ashoka University, India. Her Ph.D. and early publications have been on the international debt crisis of the 1980s. Subsequently, she has been working on the economics of discrimination and affirmative action, with a focus on caste and gender in India. She has published extensively in leading scholarly journals.

Date: Thursday, 29 October 2019
Time: 17:30 for 18:00 until 20:00
Place: Donald Gordan Auditorium, Wits School of Governance, Wits University Parktown Campus, 2 St David’s Place, Parktown, followed by refreshments at North Lodge.
For enquiries and RSVP: Nthabi Mofokeng


Women's participation in labour markets and their work conditions have some common features globally, regardless of level of development or the institutional/cultural context. For instance, everywhere women earn less than men. However, there are also important regional variations, and  analysis of the multiple ways in which gender dynamics play out in the context of work leads to interesting typologies. The bulk of academic analysis makes a neat binary between developing and developed countries. For developing countries, cultural factors or (conservative) social norms, including the stigma attached to women's work, are seen as primarily responsible for women's low labour force participation, or for occupational segregation. For developed countries, the discussion is almost never in terms of social norms; gender gaps are explained in terms of economic discrimination. 

This talk takes stock of the evolution of women's work participation, gender wage gaps, occupational division over the last two decades globally. It highlights key regional differences in these indicators, and argues that it is important to break this analytical binary. While the specific details vary, "cultural" factors matter everywhere.  Similarly, gender discrimination is also ubiquitous, regardless of the level of economic development of the country. 

In order to understand the role of the multiple factors  shaping women's work, it is especially important not to view women as an undifferentiated monolith. As academics, we need to take cognisance of intersectionality. Overlapping or intersecting identities add layers of disadvantage for some women, but not others. Unless these patterns are explicitly recognised, developing a set of appropriate policy responses will not be possible. The talk focuses on the intersection of caste and gender in India to illustrate this point. 

Confronting Inequality Book Launch

The Southern Centre for Inequality Studies and the Institute for African Alternatives invite you to the launch of Confronting Inequality: The South African Crisis, an edited volume with contributions from Hon Kgalema Motlanthe, Prof Thuli Madonsela, Prof Ben Turok, Dr Neva Makgetla, Prof Murray Leibbrandt, Prof Ivan Turok, Dr Pali Lehohla, David Francis, Andrew Mcgregor, Kaylan Massie, Zunaid Moola, Rocco Zizzamia, Dr. Simone Schotte. Professor Edward Webster from the SCIS will be in conversation with the editor, Michael Nassen Smith, and Dr Neva Makgetla, one of the authors. Refreshments will be served.

Date: Wednesday, 24 July 2019
Time: 17:30 for 18:00 until 19:00
Place: Southern Centre for Inequality Studies, North Lodge, Wits University Parktown Campus, 2 St David’s Place, Parktown
RSVP: Nthabi Mofokeng

Race, Class and the Post-Apartheid Democratic State’: Revisiting Harold Wolpe in the Ramaphosa Era

The Wits School of Governance, Southern Centre for Inequality Studies and UKZN Press invite you to a book launch event in honour of Harold Wolpe, a leading socialist intellectual within the South African liberation movement. The edited volume critically re-engages with Wolpe’s theories and ideas, applying it to the politics, economics and the social policies of the current democratic era. It provides an analysis of the progress in the transformation of South Africa from an apartheid colonial past characterised by deep racial and class inequality. The volume points to conceptual signposts for the future to both help better understand and further transform the unequal political economy of post-apartheid South Africa and considers the role of engaged scholars within this endeavour.  
Contributors in attendance at the book launch event: Prof. Gavin Williams (Oxford University); Prof. Vishnu Padayachee (Wits University); Prof. Eddie Webster (Wits University); Prof. Robert Van Niekerk (Wits University, co-editor). The discussion will be moderated by Dr Basani Baloyi (Oxfam, South Africa).
Date: Wednesday, 3rd July
Venue: Bert Wessel’s Auditorium, Wits Management Campus. 2 St David’s Place, Parktown.
Time: 6pm until 7.30pm.
 Race, Class and the Post-Apartheid Democratic State invitation to book launch

Alternative forms of ownership in the 21st Century 

The Centre will host a lecture by Jonathan Michie, Professor of Knowledge Economy and Exchange and President/Master Kellogg College, Oxford University, United Kingdom.
Date: 4 June 2019
Time: 17:30 for 18:00
Venue: Chaltsy Auditorium , Chalsty Teaching and Conference Centre, Oliver Schreiner School of Law Building, Braamfontein Campus West
Note: Refreshments will be served
Events 2018

Intersectionality and Inequality

Bring your lunch, and join us for a Brown-Bag seminar with Juliet Mphande, Prof. Dina Ligaga and Danai Mupotsa, discussing intersectionality and inequality. 

Presenters: Juliet Mphande, Prof. Dina Ligaga and Danai Mupotsa

The term “intersectionality” was coined by legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989 to describe the ways that people and the relations they have to material and discursive infrastructures, will experience the world and inequality due to the interactions of different and concurrent social locations such as race, ethnicity, indigeneity, gender, sex, class, geography, age, ability, religion, or migration status and so on. There are various political and intellectual traditions that precede and follow the introduction of the term that are invested in thinking about the ways that difference might produce multiple relations of oppression and inequality. The project collects from these various traditions with an aim at investigating the interactions between these social locations and how they occur in contexts of connected structures of power to produce interdependent forms of inequality and oppression such as patriarchy, racism, homophobia, transphobia, colonialism, imperialism and ableism. The project is oriented towards supporting ongoing projects that develop intersectionality as an approach to the question of difference. We are interested in producing work that develops the term theoretically and methodologically. We also share the intention of thinking about intersectionality as a cross-cutting concern within a large project concerned with inequality. We are specifically invested in thinking about the university as an object, or objective, and pertinent ongoing related questions.

Date: Thursday, 7 June 2018 
Time: 12:30-14:00 
Venue: Chaltsy Seminar Room, School of Law, Braamfontein Campus West

World Bank Inequality Report - what does it tell us about inequality in South Africa?

Bring your lunch, and join us for a Brown-Bag discussion on the recent World Bank Inequality report with one of its authors, Doctor Precious Zikhali, and Professor Pundy Pillay.

Presenter: Doctor Precious Zikhali, Poverty Economist at the World Bank
Respondent: Professor Pundy Pillay, Wits School of Governance

Overcoming Poverty and Inequality in South Africa: an assessment of drivers, constraints and opportunities

For more than two decades, South Africa has sought to address poverty and inequality with a wide range of initiatives, including the use of fiscal policy to support redistributive measures. This report is an analysis of South Africa’s progress in reducing poverty and inequality since 1994, with 2006 to 2015 as a reference period. Its aim is to understand the dynamics of poverty and inequality in the country, to identify the drivers of progress for the purpose of further policy actions in this area.

Join us for discussion and analysis about what the report can really tell us about the reproduction of inequality in South Africa.

Date: Thursday, 10 May 2018
Time: 12:30-14:00
Venue: Chaltsy Seminar Room, School of Law, Braamfontein Campus West
Please RSVP: 

About the speakers:

Precious Zikhali is an Economist in the Poverty and Equity GP. She currently supports the Southern Africa Poverty and Inequality work program of the World Bank covering Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe. Prior to joining the World Bank, she was a Director of Environmental Economics at the National Treasury of South Africa where she was involved in inter-departmental efforts to incorporate green growth policies into the country’s broader sustainable development agenda. She has worked as a researcher at the Centre for World Food Studies in Amsterdam, Netherlands, as well as the International Water Management Institute in Pretoria. She has also worked as a lecturer and researcher in the Department of Economics, University of Zimbabwe. Precious has published in peer-reviewed international journals, working and discussion paper series as well as policy brief series. She holds a PhD in Economics from Gothenburg University, Sweden.

Professor Pundy Pillay earned a PhD in Economics and an MA in Economics from the University of Cape Town. He completed his BA Honours at Wits University. Prior to joining the school he was a Visiting Professor at the Universities of the Western Cape and Johannesburg from 2007 to 2010. Between 2001 and 2007 he was a Senior Economist at RTI International. He was Head of the Policy Unit in the Office of the President between 1998 and 2000 and the Executive Director of the Financial and Fiscal Commission between 1995 and 1997. He began his academic career at the University of Cape Town where he was a Senior Lecturer in Economics from 1983 to 1994. He is currently leading the WSG’s participation in an international five-university Horizon 2020 research project on “The EU and Global Justice”. The universities are Oslo, Bologna, Dublin, Tubingen (Germany), and Wits. WSG is leading research on “Trade, development and global justice” in the project.

What does inequality have to do with land reform?

Brown-bag Lunch 17 April, 12:30-14:00

Join us for our first Brown-bag Lunch discussion with Professor Michael Lipton. Bring along your lunch and enjoy a stimulating address and interesting discussion.

Presenter: Professor Michael Lipton

In South Africa, farmland redistribution is crucial for social justice as well as poverty reduction and employment. But will it harm food security or production? There’s evidence that in high-unemployment areas small, not-too-unequal smallholdings, in the wake of carefully considered land reform, are conducive to productive, dynamic agricultures.

Professor Michael Lipton is a global expert on the dynamics of land reform and smallholder agricultural development, nutrition and poverty, economic demography and development theory. With research leadership spanning roughly half a century in Africa and Asia, Prof Lipton received the prestigious Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought in 2012. His 1996 co-edited volume ‘Land, Labour and Livelihoods in Rural South Africa’ remains a key reference in contemporary land reform debates. Lipton’s 2010 book, ‘Land Reform in Developing Countries: property rights and property wrongs’ is a critical reflection on the past and fresh thinking for farmland redistribution in the 21st century and beyond.


Thanks to the United Nations Development Program. The lecture also takes place within the framework of the Climate and Energy workstream, led by the International Food Policy Research Institute and the Department of Planning Monitoring and Evaluation, of the ‘Towards Inclusive Economic Development in Southern Africa (SA-TIED)’. For more information on SA-TIED, please see

Date: Tuesday, 17 April 2018 
Time: 12:30-14:00 
Venue: Chaltsy Seminar Room, Chalsty Centre, School of Law, Braamfontein Campus West