Looking at labour and poverty in South Africa

02 December 2002
TAKING the lead from its first meeting last year, the Development Policy Research Unit (DPRU) recently brought together about 150 researchers, policymakers and interested observers from South Africa and abroad for the Second Annual Conference on Labour Markets and Poverty In South Africa in Johannesburg.

While last year's gathering came about because of the need to create a national forum for the many researchers working on poverty and labour related issues around the country, this year's event had a fresh twist to it, said DPRU Director, Haroon Bhorat.

“The difference with this conference is that we tried to make it an applied research conference,” he explained.

This meant that the Unit wanted to create a “key link” between researchers and policymakers. “It's always a challenge to bring researchers and policymakers together, as they tend to have alternate ways of examining the same issues,” Bhorat noted.

To make sure that these two groups were well represented, the Unit invited researchers from universities and other centres in South Africa and abroad, plus a host of delegates from government bodies.

Guests included the Governor of the Reserve Bank, Tito Mboweni; the Deputy Director General of the Department of Labour, Les Kettledas; and representatives from the National Treasury, the Department of Labour and the Department of Trade and Industry.

The colloquium also featured international experts such as Hong Tan of the World Bank, Dr Kaushik Basu of Cornell University and Dr Oded Stark of the University of Vienna and the University of Bonn, among many others. Researchers from a number of South African universities and centres were also at the event.

Sessions covered specific themes, such as employment dynamics, health and poverty, crime, migration, and the consequences of privatisation on the labour markets. According to Bhorat, the event once again proved to be a major hit. “It's a learning process for both researchers and policymakers, who need to realise that they have to find a common intellectual ground.

“The response from people has been very positive. And this year, we've also seen a maturing of debates; where we discussed baseline issues last year, this year researchers focused on very specific issues.”

The colloquium was funded by the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung in Germany. More information can be found on the conference website .

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