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7Qs for Academics David Francis


Today we speak to David C. Francis, the Deputy Director at the Southern Centre for Inequality Studies

This is an ongoing series where we introduce some key researchers and academics getting to understand their work, their developing research interests as well as what keeps them engaged.

Explain the nature of your work and/or how it relates to inequality.

My own research looks at what factors (social, economic and societal) determine women’s labour force participation. Inequality is at the heart of this question, because women have been excluded from the labour market for many decades, and even today many of these barriers persist in some form. I am trying to understand the exact nature of these contemporary barriers in rural South Africa.

Why do you think inequality remains such an intractable social and economic problem?

I think that despite much discourse against inequality, the current economic system is in the interests of many powerful and wealthy people and there is very little incentive for them to affect the kind of change that would reduce inequality.

What continues to keep you engaged in your work or areas of research?

The fact that many of the most pressing inequalities are getting worse rather than better. For example, in the labour market, women continue to earn less than men, even when they do exactly the same work. The Covid-19 pandemic has, by many accounts, made this even worse, with women bearing the brunt of job losses, at the same time as having to do more unpaid care work within households. I would like to better understand why this is the case, and what we can do about it.

What is one thing your field is not focusing on that it should?

I don’t think that my field, economics, does enough to learn from other social sciences and to incorporate innovations from other disciplines.

Who are some academics (in your field or otherwise) whose work you follow closely? Why?

Naila Kabeer, Dori Posel, Daniela Casale, and Diane Elson. All are feminist economists doing pioneering work to understand the position of women in the economy.

What books are you currently reading?

Migrant Labour After Apartheid: The Inside Story, edited by Leslie Bank, Dori Posel and Francis Wilson; and Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro.

Complete the sentence: “The first thing I do each morning once I get up is 

 make coffee and watch the sun rise through the London Plane trees in the street outside my flat. And then go for a run.