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SCIS Working Papers


Pre-Distribution and Ownership Working Papers
The Inequality—Financial Markets Nexus: Implications for Developing Metrics for Voluntary Disclosures

Authors: Khan Zoheb, Theobald Stuart, Ewinyu Arabo K, Francis David, Mogale Etumeleng, and Valodia Imraan

SCIS Working paper | Number 61
January 2024

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.

Shareholder value orientation, corporate cash piles and the myth of financial accumulation

Author: Niall Reddy

SCIS Working paper | Number 46
March 2023

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.

Enabling inclusive economic ecosystems in Africa: A role for city governments?

Authors: Stacey-Leigh Joseph and Geci Karuri-Sebina

SCIS Working Paper | Number 45
December 2022

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.

Sovereign Debt: A Quagmire for Growth and Equity

Author: Mamokete Lijane

SCIS Working Paper | Number 44
November 2022

This paper assesses the impact of sovereign debt on efforts to address global inequality and development.

Towards a Tracking System to Enforce Competition Law in the southern and east African Region

Authors: Earnest Manjengwa, Karissa Moothoo Padayachie, Grace Nsomba, Ntombifuthi Tshabalala and Thando Vilakazi

SCIS Working Paper | Number 43
November 2022

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.

Characterising the Relationship Between Market Power and Inequality in Southern and East Africa. Why It Matters?

Authors: Karissa Moothoo Padayachie and Thando Vilakazi

SCIS Working Paper | Number 42

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.

Ownership and inequality: Policy interventions in South Africa and possible ways forward

Authors:  Sha'ista Goga and Imraan Valodia

SCIS Working Paper | Number 41
November 2022

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.

Competition and Inequality in Developing Countries

Author: Sha'ista Goga

SCIS Working Paper | Number 40
November 2022

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. 

Public Economy Project

Policy Note | Number 65 | Macro Fiscal Review: Reflections on public finances ahead of the 2024 Budget Review 

Authors: Rashaad Amra , Michael Sachs, Owen Willcox, and Thokozile Madonko | February 2023
This policy note, published before the 2024 Budget Review tabling, reviews global and domestic economic developments and fiscal developments since the 2023 Budget Review and Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS) were tabled.

SCIS Working Paper | Number 64 | The Role of Fiscal Think Tanks in Fiscal Policy: Global patterns and lessons for South Africa

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.

SCIS Working Paper | Number 62 | Financial directions and budget trends in government healthcare

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.

SCIS Working Paper | Number 60 | Austerity Without Consolidation: Fiscal Policy and Spending Choices in Budget 2023 

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.

SCIS Working Paper | Number 39 | Public services, government employment and the budget

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.

Future of Work(ers) Working Papers
SCIS Working Papers | Numbers 31 - 38

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:

SCIS Working Paper | Number 28 | Mehta B.S, Laha, S and Sharma A.N. 2022. Indian Labour Market: Post-Liberalisation Trajectory and the Arrival of Digital Technology

SCIS Working Paper | Number 27 | Ewinyu, A, Masikane, F and Webster, E. 2021. Working Alone in South Africa: A Tale of Increased Precarity and Deepened Inequality

SCIS Working Paper | Number 11 | Srivastava, R.S. 2021. Interrrogating a Framework for Universal Social Protection in India

SCIS Working Paper | Number 10 | Cierpe, J.T. 2020. On-Demand Platforms Workers in Columbia: A Labour Relationship in Disguise

SCIS Working Paper | Number 9 | Naidoo, K. 2020. Innovation, Digital Platform Technologies and Employment: An Overview of Key Issues and Emerging Trends in South Africa

SCIS Working Paper | Number 8 | Ali, R. and Muianga, C. 2020. The Future of Worker(ers) in Mozambique in the Digital Era

SCIS Working Paper | Number 7 | Osorio, V.V. 2020. Not a Fairy Tale: Unicorns and Social Protection of Gig Workers in Columbia

SCIS Working Paper | Number 6 | Berhane, Z. 2020. Making the case for a more comprehensive and equitable intervention in the digital economy

SCIS Working Paper | Number 5 | Matthews, T. 2020. Traversing the cracks: social protection toward the achievement of social justice, equality and dignity in South Africa



Reimagining the Global Economy

Alternative Visions for an Equitable and Sustainable PostCovid-19 Economic Recovery

Author: Siviwe Mhlana

SCIS Working Paper | Number 29
July 2022

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.

BEE Working papers
SCIS Working Papers | Numbers 18 -26

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.  

Knowledge and Inequality: an exploration

Author: Dev Nathan

SCIS Working Paper | Number 17
September 2021

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.

Firm Wage Premia, Rent-Sharing and Monopsony when underemployment is high

Author: Ihsaan Bassier

SCIS Working Paper | Number 16
February 2021

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.

Fiscal Dimensions of South Africa's Crisis

Author: Michael Sachs

SCIS Working Paper | Number 15
March 2021

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.

A Wealth Tax for South Africa
SCIS Working Paper | Number 14 | A Wealth Tax for South Africa | January 2021

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. 

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.

Estimates of Employment in South Africa Under the Five-Level Lockdown Framework
SCIS Working Paper | Number 4  | Estimates of Employment in South Africa Under the Five-Level Lockdown Framework SCIS Working 

Authors: David Francis, Kamal Ramburuth-Hurt and Imraan Valodia | May 2020

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. 

Estimating the Distribution of Household Wealth in South Africa
SCIS Working Paper | Number 3 | Estimating the Distribution of Household Wealth in South Africa | April 2020

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. It provides estimates on 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. 

Beyond a Treasury View of the World: reflections from theory and history on heterodox economic policy options for South Africa
SCIS Working Paper | Number 2 | Beyond a Treasury View of the World: Reflections from Theory and History on Heterodox Economic Policy Options for South Africa
Author: Professor Vishnu Padayachee | May 2018
This paper aims to set out some key alternative macroeconomic policy ideas for further debate and research in the context of the multi-disciplinary approach of the Wits Inequality Project. We ask what kind of macroeconomic policy interventions will be essential for growth and employment generation and to a successful struggle against rising income and wealth inequality in South Africa, and elsewhere. 
A Wealth Tax for South Africa

Author: Sampie Terreblanche

SCIS Working Paper | No 1
January 2018

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.

Wealth Inequality and Elites in the global South

SCIS Working Paper | Number 48 | Mapping the Wealth Elites of India 

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.

SCIS Working Paper | Number 49 | Wealth and its accumulation in Bombay/Mumbai

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). 

SCIS Working Paper | Number 50 | Wealth elites in Delhi-NCR

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.

SCIS Working Paper | Number 51 | Wealth elites of Kolkata

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.

SCIS Working Paper | Number 52 | Wealth Elites and their Accumulation Dynamics: Hyderabad City Region

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.

SCIS Working Paper | Number 53 | Brazil Colonial Legacy and Growth Patterns 

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.

SCIS Working Paper | Number 54 | The Brazilian Tax System: Regressive and Biased

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.

SCIS Working Paper | Number 55 | Mapping Recent Trends in the distribution of wealth in Brazil 

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.

SCIS Working Paper | Number 56 | Capital and Politics: Links and Distance During Bolsonaro Government

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.

SCIS Working Paper | Number 57 | Urban property, expropriation and wealth concentration in Brazil

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.

Climate Change and Inequality

SCIS Working Paper | Number 47

Renewable energy, the just transition and inequality: insights from South Africa's renewables procurement

Authors: Aalia Cassim, Julia Taylor, Roderick Crompton, and Imraan Valodia

May 2023

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.