Refilwe Lepelle, a PhD research associate at SALDRU, presented a paper at the Jobs and Development Conference in Bogotá, Colombia, which took place from 11-12 May 2018. Lepelle presented a co-authored paper titled, Trade Liberalisation and Gendered Employment in Post-Apartheid South Africa. Her co-authors are Dr. Asha Sundaram and Prof. Lawrence Edwards.
The aim of the Jobs and Development Conference was to discuss the latest policy-relevant research response to global job creation challenges that fosters the creation of multi-sector, multi-disciplinary solutions, based on empirical evidence. The conference presented useful topics on labour economics and development. It was attended by 98 participants from 24 countries.
Lepelle says the conference was an ideal platform for her to present her work to an international audience of policymakers, researchers and academics who are experts in labour economics, labour markets and development. She feels that the conference was a valuable learning opportunity for her because she interacted with and discussed research findings with other participants, including sharing views with labour experts on general issues related to job creation. She is pleased to have enlarged her network. “I now know a number of academics and researchers from different countries who have similar research interest,” Lepelle said.
This jobs and development conference was divided into the following eight broad sessions: (1) economic growth and changing labour market outcomes. (2) Technological progress and technology adoption, and job creation and wage inequality. (3) Productivity growth, structural change, and the role of manufacturing and services in development process. (4) Educational expansion, utilization of skills and wage premia. (5) Demographic change, youth employment, prolonging working lives. (6) Job quality, informality and labour market segmentation. (7) Occupational and geographical mobility of labour. (8) Energy transitions, job creation and demand for skills.
There were two plenary sessions over the course of the conference. Speakers at the first plenary session included policymakers, Anabel González (Former Minister of Foreign Trade, Costa Rica), Carmen Pagés-Serra (Chief, Labor Markets and Social Security Division, IDB), Carolina Trivelli (Former Minister of Development and Social Inclusion, Peru) and Andrés Mauricio Velasco (Technical Vice Minister of Finance and Public Credit, Colombia). This session covered global job challenges, including technological progress, skills-gap, job polarisation and migration.
The second plenary session had two keynote speakers, Daniel Hamermesh (Distinguished Scholar, Barnard College and Network Director, IZA) and Michal Rutkowski (Senior Director and Head of Global Practice, Social Protection and Jobs, World Bank Group). Hamermesh spoke about the evolution of economics research, demonstrating that journal papers are moving away from economic theory towards experiments and empirical work without a strong basis on economic theory. Hamermesh challenged the audience to bring economic theory into research. Michal Rutkowski spoke about the approach that the World Bank is taking in rethinking about job creation. He pointed out that technology and migration are some of the major challenges to job creation and that countries need to find a way of responding to these developments.
Lepelle is grateful to the NRF for funding her attendance at the conference, which she found highly beneficial and valuable for the constructive comments she received. She thanks her supervisors, Professor Lawrence Edwards and Professor Murray Leibbrandt, for their generous support and guidance, as well as the co-authors of the paper she presented.