In the Media

'South Africa is still a deeply traumatised country'

8 June 2016  |  Eyewitness News

Former Truth and Reconciliation Commissioner Yasmin Sookasays 20 years after the first hearings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), South Africa is still a deeply traumatised country. Sooka is one of 13 former commissioners interviewed by Eyewitness News for a special series of podcasts, focusing on the state of reconciliation in the country today, 17 years after the commission handed in its report. She has asked what South Africa needs to do to realise, what she calls, the dream of the Constitution. Read more.


Thomas Piketty on inequality in developing countries (great, but still not enough on politics)

31 May 2016  |  Oxfam blog

I heard econ rock star Thomas Piketty speak for the first time last week – hugely enjoyable. The occasion was the annual conference of the LSE’s new International Inequalities Institute, with Piketty headlining...He started with a mea culpa for the lack of attention in his best selling Capital in the 21st Century to inequality in developing countries. The good news is that he is now putting that right, with research under way on inequality in South Africa, Brazil, the Middle East, India and China. He gave us a preview on the first three. Read more.


International Workshop on Inequality and Middle Class Development in Africa

Cape Town, 4-6 May 2016

Against the background of a renewed interest in the impact of the distribution of income and wealth on socioeconomic development, this workshop focused on the potential of an emerging middle class in Africa to foster inclusive growth and play a transformative socio-political role in their respective countries. The workshop was organized by the GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies in cooperation with the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJRI) and SALDRU. In the course of three days, it provided participants with the opportunity to critically engage with questions around the development of a middle class in Africa from different perspectives. Participants presented current research results, structured the debate and exchanged ideas between research and policy making, and deliberated on joint strategies for a more integrated approach to the understanding of middle class formation, its segmentation, as well as its political and social orientations. Please see here for information about the workshop and to view the presentations.

Seminar Series

Vulnerability and the middle class in South Africa

Wednesday. 15 June 2016

This Wednesday's seminar will be presented by Rocco Zizzamia and Simone Schotte. Rocco is a Researcher at SALDRU, and Simone is a doctoral student and research fellow at GIGA and the Georg-August-University Göttingen.


The persistence of high levels of poverty and inequality in South Africa makes the definition and measurement of the ‘middle class’ challenging. Recent research showing growth in the South African middle class often classifies ‘middle class’ households as those which either fall below the basic-needs poverty line or are vulnerable to poverty. This is problematic. Arguing that the notion of ‘empowerment’ is central to the social and political meanings of ‘middle class’, we propose an empirical strategy that uses (in)vulnerability to poverty as the key criterion defining middle class status. Using the panel dimension of the nationally representative National Income Dynamics Study, we present a probability model that predicts the risk of staying in or falling into poverty over a six-year time frame depending on a broad array of initial household conditions and shock variables. We find that the middle class in South Africa is smaller than previous research has suggested and has grown sluggishly since 1993. Despite this, there has been considerable demographic transformation within the middle class, with Africans now outnumbering whites by about 2 to 1.


Other Writing

Youth friendly clinics make inroads in reducing unintended teen births in South Africa

Nicola Branson and Tanya Byker

Econ3x3 Brief: The inequality of space: What to do?

Pippa Green

Econ3x3 Brief: How much is inequality reduced by progressive taxation and government spending?

Ingrid Woolard, Rebecca Metz, Gabriela Inchauste, Nora Lustig and Mashekwa Maboshe

World Bank working paper: The distributional impact of fiscal policy in South Africa

Gabriela Inchauste, Nora Lustig, Mashekwa Maboshe, Catriona Purfield and Ingrid Woolard

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