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Technical workshop to best measure and understand inequality in South Africa

Inequality in South Africa remains stubbornly high. High-level evidence suggests that twenty-seven years into the new democratic dispensation white citizens remain, on average, three times wealthier than their black compatriots. Inequality within the black community has also deepened. The ISI is of the opinion that this knowledge on its own does not help fully understand the transformational gains made in South Africa, nor does it properly explain the reasons behind the lingering high inequality, which understanding is necessary for the development of policy interventions capable of addressing the problem.

In order to find answers, the institute will be conducting a nuanced and more in-depth analysis of data which will culminate in an ‘Inequality, poverty and socio-demographic change in South Africa 27 years after the end of apartheid: an action- and policy-oriented analysis’ report.

To this end the Inclusive Society Institute, in collaboration with the Swedish Institute for Future Studies, held a technical workshop on 1 July 2021, to consider:

  • Systemic approaches to understanding inequality and the implications for its measurement;

  • What the best inequality measurement instruments and lenses are for South Africa? This entailed a critical discussion of conventional inequality measures and the consideration of alternatives; and

  • Data shortcomings and alternative data sources for testing and evaluating inequality within society.

A high-level panel of experts participated in the dialogue, including:

  • Dr Ellen Ehmke, Senior Expert Inequality, Global Issues; Robert Bosch Stiftung, Germany

  • Professor Jan Jonsson, Swedish Institute for Social Research, Stockholm University

  • Professor Carina Mood, also from the Swedish Institute for Social Research, Stockholm University

  • Professor Gustaf Arrhenius, Director of the Swedish Institute for Future Studies

  • Dr Anja Roux, lead researcher on inequality for the Inclusive Society Institute and her team.

The Inclusive Society Institute’s inequality research is being supported by the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, who’s South African representative, Sebastian Sperling, and his Johannesburg team, also attended.


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