Advancing research on gender inequality and energy transitions through international collaboration

Posted on June 13, 2024

Research teams from the University of Pretoria’s (UP’s) Energy Economics Research Unit in the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences and Curtin University’s School of Accounting, Economics and Finance in the Faculty of Business and Law, as well as its Institute for Energy Transition in the Faculty of Science and Engineering, have embarked on a significant collaborative research initiative focused on gender equality, energy transition, and energy poverty.

This partnership aims to combine the strengths of both institutions to explore critical issues and foster mutual learning and advancement in these fields. The primary objective of this partnership is to deepen the understanding of gender disparities in the context of energy poverty and transitions. This research is particularly timely, as the world faces the challenges of achieving gender equality and sustainable energy solutions.

Preliminary findings from the collaboration indicate that gender inequality manifests differently in South Africa and Australia due to varied socioeconomic contexts and historical backgrounds.

In South Africa, numerous policies were developed to promote gender equality. One such policy is the Employment Equity Act of 1998, which was designed to ensure equal opportunities for previously disadvantaged groups, including women. Such policies have proven to be crucial in a country such as South Africa, which is still grappling with the legacy of apartheid and deep inequalities. In Australia, the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012 aims to address gender inequality with a special focus on corporate gender inclusion, equitable pay, and leadership representation, reflecting its distinct socio-economic landscape.

Drawing on similarities and progress in the gender equality efforts of both countries, the research details Australia’s significant progress in corporate inclusivity and economic participation and South Africa's gender equality efforts in combating gender-based violence and increasing women's economic involvement through targeted policies. The researchers note that both countries have valuable lessons to offer, and this collaboration will harness key insights to foster gender-inclusive economic growth in both contexts.

These ongoing research efforts also explore the interaction between gender inequality and energy poverty. Prof Roula Inglesi-Lotz, Head of the Energy Research Economics Unit at UP and member of the research teams, says that gender inequality worsens the impacts of energy poverty, particularly for women who often bear the burden of energy deficits in low-income households.

“Energy transitions present both opportunities and challenges for gender equality. Women, especially in rural areas, are disproportionately affected by energy poverty due to their roles in household energy management and limited access to resources and decision-making processes,” says Prof Inglesi-Lotz. She adds that the collaborative research aims to explore how the energy transition can be managed to mitigate these inequalities and ensure that women benefit equally from sustainable energy solutions.

Through this collaboration the research team, which includes UP’s Roula Inglesi-Lotz, Jessika Bohlmann, Anneri Oosthuizen, Heinrich Bohlmann, and Margaret Chitiga-Mabugu, and researchers from the Curtin University team, namely Helen Cabalu, Julian Inchauspe, Hiroaki Suenaga, Khuong Truong, and Bishal Bharadwaj, will also apply the Computable General Equilibrium (CGE) modelling to analyse the economic impacts of gender equality and energy policies.

Economic inequalities such as unequal distribution of wealth and wide income gaps are huge drivers of gender inequality and studying the economic impact of gender equality is imperative. “The CGE models are powerful tools that simulate how changes in policy, technology, or other external factors affect an economy. By incorporating gender-specific data and variables, we will be able to assess the broader economic implications of gender-focused policies and energy transitions, providing a framework for policymaking, and make a positive contribution towards gender parity in both countries,” says Prof Helen Cabalu from Curtin University.

The UP-Curtin University collaboration represents a significant step towards addressing gender inequality and energy transitions. By combining resources and expertise, the partnership aims to produce actionable insights and policy recommendations to drive meaningful change in South Africa and Australia. Demonstrating the commitment of both teams, a joint research proposal is being prepared for Australia Africa Universities Network funding to support the research efforts and strengthen the scientific ties between the two entities.

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