SCIS Working Papers
Authors: Khan Zoheb, Theobald Stuart, Ewinyu Arabo K, Francis David, Mogale Etumeleng, and Valodia Imraan
SCIS Working paper | Number 61
Can a disclosure framework reduce overall socio-economic inequality, or will it shift inequality somewhere else, for example, to other firms, other regions, or out of the firm and the private sector and into households? Are there material regional variations in the perceptions of the causes and effects of socio-economic inequality? What is the appropriate level of focus for an inequality disclosure framework? These are some of the questions considered in this paper that carefully considers the relationship between financial markets and inequality.
Author: Niall Reddy
SCIS Working paper | Number 46
Financialization theories claim shareholder pressure has forced non-financial corporations into a “turn to finance” – an attempt to generate revenue from financial activities rather than production. This paper critiques this theory, showing that the main evidence in its favor – increasing financial portfolios – stems from factors not related to shareholder based governance.
Authors: Stacey-Leigh Joseph and Geci Karuri-Sebina
SCIS Working Paper | Number 45
This paper finds that the local state, and in particular major African cities, have a critical ecosystem role in advancing inclusive economic development and mitigating inequality.
Author: Mamokete Lijane
SCIS Working Paper | Number 44
This paper assesses the impact of sovereign debt on efforts to address global inequality and development.
Authors: Earnest Manjengwa, Karissa Moothoo Padayachie, Grace Nsomba, Ntombifuthi Tshabalala and Thando Vilakazi
SCIS Working Paper | Number 43
The paper explores the role of market power in exacerbating inequality by looking at the effects of competition on income and wealth distribution. It argues that the conceptual framework, proposed in the paper, can be used to better understand market power and inequality in various African countries in order to develop appropriate responses.
Authors: Karissa Moothoo Padayachie and Thando Vilakazi
This paper focuses on competition in the southern and east Africa region where there is a range of large firms with significant market power operating across political borders. This paper provides preliminary reflections on what we know about that relationship, and details reasons why we need to understand it.
Authors: Sha'ista Goga and Imraan Valodia
SCIS Working Paper | Number 41
This paper reviews some of the policies that have been introduced to address ownership diversity and broadening ownership. Policies like B-BBEE have gone some way towards doing this but not far enough.
Author: Sha'ista Goga
SCIS Working Paper | Number 40
This paper examines the link between competition policy and inequality, with a specific focus on the impact on inequality of concentration and competitive abuses by firms. In particular, the paper focuses on the role that concentration and a lack of competition have on inequality more generally and specifically within the context of developing countries.
Author/s: Philipp Krause | 2024
This paper looks at fiscal policy more broadly through the institutions of policy-making rather than more narrowly through the institutions of budgeting. It considers who shares the fiscal policy space with the ministry of finance and how the fiscal policy agenda is set.
Authors: Michael Sachs, Fareed Abdullah, Thokozile Madonko, Kim Jonas, Nevilene Slingers and Tanaka Zvawada | 2023
This working paper provides evidence and analysis that can assist in taking forward the agenda of the Presidential Health Compact. It does so by reviewing the financial performance of the government healthcare system over the last decade.
Authors: Michael Sachs, Rashaad Amra, Thokozile Madonko, and Owen Willcox | June 2023
This report shows that continuous austerity over the last decade has eroded the quality and value of public services on which the majority of South Africans rely. With spending choices resulting in pay increases for government employees held well below the rate of inflation, and across-the-board spending reductions cutting deeply into healthcare, basic education, criminal justice, and social services.
Authors: Michael Sachs, Arabo K. Ewinyu, Olwethu Shedi | October 2022
This report presents independent analysis using publicly available data on budgets, audited spending outcomes, and government plans for future expenditure.
The Future of Work(ers) Research Project launches eight new interdisciplinary working papers on the intersection of digital technologies, the changing world of work(ers) and inequality in the global South. This impressive collection of papers by scholars from the global South is the product of a three-year research project, led by the Southern Centre for Inequality Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand. Much of the scholarship on the impact of digital technologies on the world of work has focused on the global North. These papers showcase cutting-edge research on the implications of digitisation for work and workers across a diversity of sectors in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Ghana, India and South Africa. The papers span Brazil’s manufacturing sector, agritechs in Ghana, click farm workers in Brazil, warehouse workers in Argentina, and various forms of location based platform work (incusing food couriers and beauty workers) in Brazil, Columbia and India.
The working papers can all be downloaded here:
Author: Siviwe Mhlana
This report analyses several economic recovery policy proposals influencing the international discussion on the post-Covid-19 economic recovery. Its main aim is to determine the extent to which each of these recovery plans reflects issues concerning the global South, particularly increasing vulnerability to external debt, inefficient tax regimes, declining employment security and the lack of or inadequate access to social protection and social services. The report also seeks to identify the policies required to improve livelihoods as well as build resilient economies in the global South in the medium to long term. It places emphasis on the experiences, concerns and strategies of activists, policymakers and indigenous communities in the global South for developing pathways towards a green, just and sustainable economy for all.
Authors: Balwant Singh Mehta, Somjita Laha and Alakh N Sharma*
Technology has transformative effects on not only production process and distribution but also the future of work. Recent studies also suggest that ongoing digital transformation will disrupt the existing structure of the economy and patterns of work. The Indian economy is also in the thick of this transition. Concerns are being raised in various forums about the future of work in India, under emerging digital technologies, with its level of economic development, labour market structure and degree of digital penetration. This paper examines how the progress of digital technology is transforming the world of work and labour market institutions in India. This has been analysed in the context of changes in the labour markets in the wake of liberalisation of the economy initiated from the 1990s, which also coincides with the high-growth period.
Working from home is not new. Indeed, it was the norm at the dawn of the industrial revolution over two centuries ago. Due to COVID-19 and the imposed lockdown, more people than ever are working from home. Through this paper, the authors pose three fundamental questions related to working from home. Firstly, are workers completing a circle and returning to “homework” as the new norm? Secondly, what do preliminary findings highlight about the work-life balance of women? To answer this, the authors drew on a novel panel dataset, NIDS-CRAM. Lastly, the authors reflect on pilot survey responses to determine the effects of remote work on managers and worker conditions.
The Southern Centre for Inequality Studies, with support from the Open Society Foundation, conducted a study focussing on black economic empowerment policy. Whilst most agree that progress with empowerment policy has been limited, there remains no clear framework for monitoring progress or evaluating outcomes. The study locates empowerment within an analysis of wealth accumulation and the distribution of assets in a changing economy. It sought to identify pathways to a more inclusive economy by considering how the idea of empowerment might relate to the possibilities for growth and national development in South Africa. This BEE Working Papers series, produced by leading scholars, policy makers and practitioners, seeks to engage in dialogue with civil society, business and government by providing a clearer definition of the meaning of BEE and a reappraisal of its relationship with other policy objective.
Author: Dev Nathan
This working paper explores the way in which knowledge can be turned into a monopoly and enable the capture of rent, or income in excess of what can be earned by commoditised, non-monopolised knowledge. Arguing that the monopolisation of knowledge has a long history in the creation of inequality, including gender inequality within a society, it considers the ways in which knowledge and inequality interact in small-scale agricultural societies and in large-scale capitalism.
The paper utilizes the concept of knowledge economy and considers how the relationship between knowledge and inequality can be understood as a form of contingent articulation of different social and economic processes. This nexus of knowledge and inequality is looked at in more detail in the context of patterns of inequality in the context of globalised production through global value chains. Policies for dealing with inequality usually deal with taxation and other forms of ex post action on inequality. The paper asks for a consideration of the modification of the manner in which the knowledge economy functions in dealing with inequality.
Author: Ihsaan Bassier
How important are firms in the labour markets of developing countries? This working paper sets out to explain their importance by using matched employer-employee data from South Africa, and concludes that firms explain a larger share of wages compared to other richer countries. The author shows that this can be explained by the country's high degree of underemployment.
Estimating separations elasticities by instrumenting wages of matched workers with firm wages, among other methods, the paper finds a low separations elasticity which generates a high degree of monopsony. The correspondingly high estimated rent-sharing elasticity explains the important role of firm wage policies, even in an economy with a large labour surplus.
The author notes that this paper is a work in progress.
Author: Michael Sachs
How did South Africa arrive at the fiscal crisis it currently faces? In search of answers, this paper reviews fiscal data and policy development over the last two decades. The structure of public spending and the dynamics of debt accumulation are looked at in some detail, but less attention is given to taxation.
The paper considers monetary policy only to the extent that it might (or might not) ease fiscal constraints. Macroeconomic trends are looked at insofar as they frame fiscal choices, but the broader context of the South Africa’s crisis – rising unemployment and poverty, extreme and entrenched inequalities, economic stagnation rooted in deindustrialisation and financialisation, and the slow but inexorable disintegration of the Congress movement – is left in the background.
The author notes that while South Africa’s crisis is multidimensional, and a single lens such as fiscal policy would inevitably be limited. However, the belief is it can help illuminate a wider terrain of historical change.
Authors: Aroop Chatterjee, Léo Czajka and Amory Gethin
This working paper provides the details behind the op-ed that proposes a wealth tax to assist with fiscal sustainability, as well as reduce extreme wealth inequality.
It considers the feasibility of implementing a progressive wealth tax to collect additional government revenue and reduce inequality in South Africa in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. Drawing on their companion paper on wealth inequality in South Africa, the authors estimate that under conservative assumptions, a progressive wealth tax on the richest 1% could raise between 1.5% and 3.5% of GDP. They discuss how sensitive their estimates are to assumptions on mismeasurement of wealth and tax evasion, and they examine technical issues related to the enforcement of the tax. They also explain how this new tax could interact with other capital related taxes already in place in South Africa, and discuss the potential impact on growth.
Based on this paper, there is also a wealth tax simulator available here. This tool allows the user to change tax rates, thresholds, and parameters (such as evasion rates and depreciation of wealth) to see how much revenue it generates, how much tax an individual would have to pay, and how it compares to other government expenditures and revenues.
Author: Ravi Shankar Srivastava
The paper begins by dealing with conceptual issues around social security, social protection, and a social protection floor and argues for a rights based social protection floor for India. It then describes the broad social security or social protection system in place in the country. Since social protection systems are contingent on the characteristics and nature of work and employment relations, the paper uses existing data sources to elaborate on the (gendered) nature of the workforce. It also points out how existing social security systems reinforce labour market inequalities.
The paper goes on to discuss the nature of expansion of social security and social protection since the turn of the century. It describes two distinct phases: the first, from about 2002 to 2014 when these systems expanded due to grassroots movements, court judgments and government responses; the second, from 2014 onwards, when the new government turned its back on rights based social security, but populist pressures still led to the introduction of new measures, although the financial priority given to social protection declined.
Finally, the paper focuses on the current issues and challenges in moving towards a rights based social protection floor in India. It argues that such a social protection floor should combine worker-centric and citizen-centric features and comprise minimum guarantees for all at the base, with a second level of contributory social security. It considers the possible options for social protection – contributory and non-contributory and a universal basic income. It also analyses the consequences of the government’s thrust on digital financialisation for benefit payments and on biometric identification of workers and argues that, while the introduction of a social security registration system for workers is essential, approaches currently being put in place impose high costs on the poorest, and do not build on adequate data privacy safeguards.
Author: Juana Torres Cierpe
This article is a study on the future of digital work in Colombia. It focuses on the case of workers in on-demand platforms, as they are the workforce most relevant to the notion of digital labour in the country. The research question was: What are the stakes of the legal vacuum in which on-demand platform workers find themselves? The methodological approach in the research paper consisted of analysis of secondary data (statistics and academic journal articles). The article consists of two parts. Part one gives an account of the labour changes of the past 30 years. These changes are analysed within the framework of neoliberal implementation, emphasising the phenomenon of informality. Part two concentrates on showing the situation of workers in the on-demand platform in Colombia. The problem of informality, into which this type of worker falls, is taken as an essential phenomenon. The section first shows a typology of the platforms operating in the country, where the on-demand platform workers perform. It then explores the implications of the legal vacuum that their situation involves. Finally, it analyses some studies that provide specific data regarding on-demand platform workers.
Author: Karmen Naidoo
This paper provides an analytical profile of the South African labour market, along with a descriptive overview of the nature and extent of digital platform labour in the country. The paper also discusses the conceptual links between different types of innovation and employment, before reflecting on the implications of new forms of digital labour relations on labour organization and regulation. The literature on South Africa’s digital platform labour is nascent. Some estimates suggest that there are about 135 000 platform workers in the country. There are, however, important concerns about the quality of platform work, and recent research suggests that many platforms do not provide workers with a living wage or decent working conditions. There are several challenges to regulating platform work, in part due to workers being classified as independent contractors. Despite this, there are new emerging forms of worker organization amongst precarious workers in South Africa that go beyond traditional trade unions to incorporate broader worker associations.
Authors: Rosimina Ali. and Carlos Muianga
As the digital platform economy and gig work have been accelerating, new expressions of work and tensions over working conditions, value creation and distribution, and over labour relations and regulation, are also emerging in Mozambique. Although digital work is still at an incipient stage in the country given the low access to information and communication technologies (ICTs) for the majority of the population and their socioeconomic profile, ICT access has expanded over the past decade. The number of start-ups enabling digital work has risen in the past five years and more recently amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Research on social conditions of digital gig work in Mozambique’s economy remains largely unaddressed. Following a political economy approach, this paper explores how digitally mediated forms of work are (re)shaping, changing or exacerbating the existing nature of work and what questions it poses for the future of work(ers) in Mozambique. We argue that, in the current pattern of growth in Mozambique, labour markets have a fragmented nature where work is dominated by informal, irregular, unstable and insecure social conditions. The preliminary primary evidence from digital gig workers shows that the organisation of digitally mediated work seems to reproduce the existing disruptions within labour markets. This seems acute in a context where digital gig work is not yet legislated and trade unions are absent. The future of workers depends on the broad organisation of socioeconomic structures and relations which shape the nature of work, structurally linked to processes of accumulation on a global scale. A failure to broadly analyse work beyond the physically sphere, including the digitally mediated forms of work and its intersections with paid and unpaid forms of work, has implications for the design and effectiveness of public policies on labour.
Author: Veronica Velez Osorio
In Colombia there has been little social dialogue or democratic debate about how to effectively extend labour and social protections to digital platform gig workers. Rappi Inc. is a digital platform founded in Bogota, Colombia, in 2015, with the support of Colombian public institutions. Through the platform, customers can buy consumer goods such as meals, groceries, medicine, and so on. In 2019, Rappi Inc. became one of the most valuable digital technology companies in Latin America with a value of over $1 billion turning into what the venture capital business called a unicorn company. There is no regulatory framework in Colombia that enforces the continued relevance of employment relationsin the platform economy. Therefore, the rapid growth of Rappi Inc. has not been accompanied by the fair redistribution of profits, due to gig workers being classified as ‘independent contractors’, which sharpens the asymmetries between capital and labour. Rappi Inc. workers have responded by forming the Movimiento Nacional de Repartidores de Plataformas Digitales (MNRP, National Movement of Digital Platform Workers) and also by recently forming a trade union that operates through an app, Unidapp. These workers are actively disputing the current trajectory of digital work in Colombia. Furthermore, the paper analyses debates about the possibilities of a universal basic income as antipoverty- focused social protection, in the midst of intensifying calls for one in response to the crisis resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic. The government launched the Programa Ingreso Solidario (PIS, Solidarity Income Programme) to address the decrease in work-related incomes of poor households. The discussions on basic income have opened the debate on crucial public agenda issues, such as tax reform, public debt and vertical expansion of social protection, among others social demands.
Author: Zerihun Berhane
Ethiopia implements a range of contributory and non-contributory social protection programmes that jointly cover about 21% of the population. Using document review and secondary data, this paper analyses coverage, adequacy, and options for the vertical and horizontal expansion of social protection in Ethiopia, including cost estimates. It argues that the major challenges for the expansion of social protection in the country are political and financial. Politically, the government’s use of social protection as an instrument to promoting political stability made social protection subscribe to productive objectives and caused it to be tied to public works and conditional on labour contribution. Moreover, food security strategy and institutions dominated social protection for decades, making it essentially a rural programme rather than being all-inclusive. Financially, the high cost of implementing large-scale programmes made donor financing a constant feature of social protection in Ethiopia, having implications for sustainability of programmes. This paper provides a cost estimate scenario analysis of three social protection options: social pensions, child benefits, and disability grants. The cost estimate results indicate that implementing these programmes would be fairly affordable, particularly if accompanied by domestic resource mobilization, and suggests restructuring social protection institutions to make them more inclusive
Author: Thandiwe Matthews
South Africa has one of the most expansive social protection systems in Africa, yet it remains one of the most unequal countries in the world. The sudden onslaught of the Covid-19 pandemic has laid bare the devastating impact of deep global and domestic socio-economic inequalities, and the political, economic and social implications thereof. This paper explores how the conceptualisation and implementation of social protection policies can serve to simultaneously confront and reproduce the sources of power that sustain structural inequality in South Africa. Through an interdisciplinary lens, the research probes the gendered nexus between social policy and constitutionally protected socio-economic rights to elucidate how multiple forms of discrimination perpetuate the exclusion of historically marginalised groups, and particularly black African women, in post-1994 democratic South Africa.
Although social protection programmes have saved millions of households from falling deeper into poverty, the level of social grants is insufficient to meet households’ reproductive needs and undermines their very objectives. At the same time, the digitalisation of cash transfers coupled with the ‘marketisation of governance’ (Taylor, 2000) has trapped grant beneficiaries in relations of credit and debt.
The paper concludes that comprehensive social protection requires an approach that is not only efficient and pragmatic but is substantively inclusive, equitable and participatory, with the aim of dismantling relations of power that reproduce structural inequalities. However, social protection alone cannot address the complexity of challenges associated with structural inequality, and must be linked to labour market policies geared at improving the conditions of work for black African women in South Africa.
Authors: David Francis, Kamal Ramburuth-Hurt and Imraan Valodia
During the COVID-19 pandemic and response, an important question, from both a health and economic policy perspective, is how many workers are able to return to work as the lockdown is eased and tightened in response to the spread of the virus. Using a static analysis derived from industry subsectors, we estimate employment allowed under each level of the five-level lockdown framework. We estimate that under level five of the lockdown framework, 40% of total employment is permitted, or 6.6 million workers. This rises to 55% (9.2 million) under level four; 71% (11.8 million) under level three; 94% (15.6 million) under level two and 100% under level one. This is a static analysis and assumes that no jobs are lost as a result of a lockdown. As such, its principle use is as a distributional analysis of the share of workers permitted to work under each level of the lockdown.
Author: Aroop Chatterjee, Léo Czajka and Amory Gethin
This working paper is the result of a collaboration between the Southern Centre for Inequality Studies and the World Inequality Lab.
This paper estimates the distribution of personal wealth in South Africa by combining tax microdata covering the universe of income tax returns, household surveys and macroeconomic balance sheets statistics. We systematically compare estimates of the wealth distribution obtained by direct measurement of net worth, rescaling of reported wealth to balance sheets totals, and capitalisation of income flows. We document major inconsistencies between available data sources, in particular regarding the measurement of dividends, corporate assets and wealth held through trusts. Both household surveys and tax data remain insufficient to properly capture capital incomes. Notwithstanding a significant degree of uncertainty, our findings reveal unparalleled levels of wealth concentration. The top 10 per cent own 86 per cent of aggregate wealth and the top 0.1 per cent close to one third. The top 0.01 per cent of the distribution (3,500 individuals) concentrate 15 per cent of household net worth, more than the bottom 90 per cent as a whole. Such high levels of inequality can be accounted for in all forms of assets at the top end, including housing, pension funds and other financial assets. Our series show no sign of decreasing wealth inequality since apartheid: if anything, we find that inequality has remained broadly stable and has even slightly increased within top wealth groups.
Author: Sampie Terreblanche
The Southern Centre for Inequality Studies (SCIS) at the University of the Witwatersrand takes great pleasure in presenting this, our first Working Paper, by economic historian Sampie Terreblanche. It was exactly twenty years ago that Professor Terreblanche presented his testimony to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). Two decades later, it remains extremely relevant. This Working Paper presents some contemporary reflections on inequality, penned by Professor Terreblanche. These are followed by a reproduction, in full, of his testimony to the TRC in November 1997, which called for the levying of a wealth tax on all affluent South Africans.
Authors: Surinder S. Jodhka and Vamsi Vakulabharanam | June 2023
The paper explores the processes that produce, expand/dissolve and reproduce the extreme concentration of wealth in the context of the institutional and social structures in India. The study engages with the historical and empirical processes of big wealth in India.
Authors: Sripad Motiram and Kiran Limaye | June 2023
This paper analyses wealth in Bombay/Mumbai by considering three historical phases: pre-colonial and colonial (sixteenth century-1947), independence to pre-liberalisation (1947-91) and post-liberalisation (1991-present).
Authors: Anjana Thampi and Ishan Anand | June 2023
In this paper, we study the evolution of wealth in this region using secondary data, primary data collection, and detailed interviews. Our interviews of key informants and case studies of wealthy elites revealed five key themes: real estate, land, and farmhouses; caste and community networks; start-ups; politics and wealth creation; and investment in educational institutions.
Authors: Saswata Guha Thakurata, Manas Ranjan Bhowmik and Riona Basu | June 2023
In this paper, focusing on the city of Kolkata, we present a narrative concerning, (a) The caste-class-ethnicity intersectionality with respect to wealth ownership; (b) The sectoral dimension of wealth creation; and (c) the spatial implications of the process of wealth accumulation.
Authors: Purendra Prasad and Raviteja Rambarki | June 2023
Taking into consideration the agrarian background of elites and subsequent emergence of professional classes on one hand, and diverse trajectories of business elites on the other, this paper tries to explain the current wealth-accumulation dynamics in Hyderabad City region through a political economy perspective.
Authors: Lena Lavinas, et al. | June 2023
This paper provides a very concise view of the trajectory of Brazil since it became a republic. It goes through the 20th century and into the 21st century to systematize how the different phases of economic development reproduced and reformatted the inequalities inherited from the country's colonial-slave period.
Authors: Lucas Bressan, Ana Carolina Cordilha, João Paulo Constantino and Pedro Rubin | June 2023
The goal of this article is to unpack the regressive and biased nature of the Brazilian tax system. It combines data from national and international institutions for the past two decades to provide a comprehensive understanding of the tax system's role in shaping income and wealth gaps.
Authors: Lena Lavinas, Ana Carolina Cordilha, Lucas Bressan and Pedro Rubin | June 2023
The paper describes the recent evolution of financial and non-financial personal wealth in Brazil, with an aim to indicate how the different forms of wealth - in particular the strong expansion of fictitious capital - reshape inequalities in Brazil.
Authors: Francisco Bedê, José Maurício Domingues, Mônica Herz, Guilherme Leite Gonçalves, and Maria Elena Rodríguez | June 2023
The article analyses the relation between the state and the political system, on the one side, and capital and capitalists, on the other, in Brazil, especially under the Bolsonaro government.
Authors: Mariana Fix, João Paulo Constantino and André Doca Prado | June 2023
This paper aims to identify and characterise changes and continuities in the real estate wealth, with a focus on the residential segment.
Renewable energy, the just transition and inequality: insights from South Africa's renewables procurement
Authors: Aalia Cassim, Julia Taylor, Roderick Crompton, and Imraan Valodia
This paper discusses the de-risking approach and the investment-centred approach to an energy transition, and using the case study of South Africa, argues for the necessity of an investment-centred approach to achieve a transition which supports local development and energy security. In analysing the example of South Africa’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producers Procurement Programme (REI4P), the authors highlight important learnings for the energy transition, which provide a useful window into the wider carbon transition.