COVID-19 related projects that Saldrupians are working on

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Several Saldrupians are actively working on COVID-19 related projects which currently include:

Grants and poverty relief
A group of SALDRU researchers and affiliates have done some research on the effect of raising the monetary values of various types of grants on reducing poverty rates, as poverty rates and unemployment are likely to increase due to the enforced lockdown. The team, comprised of Ihsaan Bassier, Josh Budlender, Rocco Zizzamia, Murray Leibbrandt, and Vimal Ranchhod, published their initial findings in The Conversation. This was discussed in the previous newsletter, and the team is now developing this work further with the aim of publishing a more comprehensive peer-reviewed academic article on this and related work.

NIDS-CRAM
Several Saldrupians, including Reza Daniels, Kim Ingle, Tim Brophy, Vimal Ranchhod, Andrew Kerr, and several others, are involved in a multiple-university collaboration to run a telephonic survey amongst a subset of the respondents who were part of the National Income Dynamics Study (NIDS).

This forms part of a bigger research project called the Coronavirus Rapid Mobile Survey (CRAM). CRAM is a collaborative study which, in the context of the global Coronavirus pandemic, aims to inform policy using rapid reliable research on income, employment and welfare in South Africa. The CRAM study is run by researchers from three universities: the University of Stellenbosch, University of Cape Town (UCT) and the University of Witwatersrand (Wits), and is headed up by Nic Spaull from the University of Stellenbosch.

One of the components of the broader CRAM project is the National Income Dynamics Study: Coronavirus Rapid Mobile Survey (NIDS-CRAM). NIDS-CRAM will investigate the socioeconomic impacts of the national lock down associated with the State of Disaster declared in March 2020, and the social and economic consequences of the current global Coronavirus pandemic.

However, in comparison to the core NIDS panel study, the NIDS-CRAM survey will use a much shorter questionnaire, with a focus on the Coronavirus pandemic and the national lockdown. We are currently in the planning and piloting stages of this survey, which we plan to repeat periodically over the next six months, starting in May 2020.

Essential workers, working from home and job loss vulnerability
Andrew Kerr (DataFirst and SALDRU) and Amy Thornton (Development Policy Research Unit) wrote a short paper using the Quarterly Labour Force Surveys (collated in the Post-Apartheid Labour Market Series, PALMS, produced by DataFirst) to estimate the number of workers who can work from home or are classified as essential workers. They found that 14% of the employed could work from home and 27% of the employed are essential workers, while a few are both essential and cannot work from home. 63% of workers cannot work from home and are not classified as essential workers.

Only 28% of workers in the bottom half of the earnings distribution are essential or can work from home, but this is 61% for workers in the top 10% of the earnings distribution. The methodology can be extended to show the increasing number of workers who can return to work under each of the 5 phases the government has recently released. The research was published as a DataFirst paper and appeared in BusinessDay.

Coronavirus economic ideas
Andrew Donaldson is part of a group of economists who have prepared several policy-related papers for consideration by National Treasury and the Presidency. The papers can be accessed at www.covid19economicideas.org. A note on public debt and monetary policy which was prepared by Andrew can be accessed here. Aidan Horn is working with Andrew on a further paper on estimating employment and earnings impacts and the associated need for income support to businesses and workers.

The impact of lockdown on employment at the V&A Waterfront, a snap survey
Grant Smith, with assistance from Aidan Horn, Emma Whitelaw and Samantha Culligan, conducted a “snap survey” of businesses at the V&A Waterfront to assess the impact of the economic lockdown. Andrew Donaldson advised on the survey and helped form the analysis of the survey results. In brief, almost all firms reported a near-100% loss of revenue in April. If the lockdown continues to mid-May, firms anticipate that about a quarter of employees will be laid off, and 40% of companies report that they are at risk of permanent closure. A summary of findings can be found here.

Understanding youth well-being in a time of COVID-19
Concerned about the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the strict lockdown on the lives of already vulnerable young people in South Africa, UNICEF and SALDRU (UCT), in partnership with the Centre for Social Development in Africa (CSDA) (UJ), the Children’s Radio Foundation and Youth Capital are preparing to undertake a series of polls to ask for these young people’s input. From SALDRU, the researcher involved with this initiative is Ariane De Lannoy, who also leads the unit’s work on developing a Basic Package of Support for Youth. The polls will be sent out via UNICEF’s U-Report platform, reaching well over 90,000 youth across various provinces in the country. All partners have input on the questions and will help distribute the polls beyond the UNICEF network. Key findings on the impact of the pandemic on these youth and what support they will need once the lockdown is eased will be captured in various formats and distributed via the various partners’ networks to reach important policy-makers and practitioners on the ground.

Spatial inequalities in student ability to learn on digital platforms
In response to president Cyril Ramaphosa declaring a State of Disaster, learning institutions and residences around the country closed in order to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. These institutions are now required to come up with innovative teaching and learning solutions in a relatively short period of time. There is a risk that remote learning, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, will deepen the existing inequalities which persist in the country’s higher education system. Recognising that students may face challenges to continue their learning as a result of lack of connectivity, data, devices or general household circumstances, the Siyaphambili team has proposed a project to Ahmed Bawa, CEO of Universities South Africa, that maps student home locations (available in the HEMIS and TVETMIS database) to community level data from the StatsSA Community Survey 2016. This exercise will provide a descriptive picture of student circumstances, nationally and within each learning institution, potentially providing an important layer of information in planning for student learning going forward.

The behavioural science of COVID-19
Human behaviour plays a central role in reducing the spread of COVID-19. Communication by government entities and other trusted sources about desirable or mandated behaviours during the pandemic is critical. In addition, it is important to be innovative in redesigning social contexts and service delivery to make it feasible for everyone to practice these behaviours. SALDRU is contributing to a series of sheets that provide concrete tips for how local and national governments and other institutions can use insights from behavioural science to help slow the spread of COVID-19 in low and middle-income countries around the world, while facilitating social cohesion and the provision of essential services. This project is a collaboration with Ideas42, The Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics (CHIBE) & Indlela. Brendan Maughan-Brown and Kris Lemon (J-PAL Africa) are contributing to this effort. The first release Behavioral Science Tips for Physical Distancing, focuses on social distancing. We hope you will share these with your networks, including government, policy-makers and community based organisations. For further information contact Brendan: Brendan.maughanbrown@gmail.com.