UP, HSRC and DST launch “rich and timely” publication on poverty and inequality

Posted on May 07, 2019

The Department of Science and Technology (DST) in conjunction with the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) and the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Pretoria (UP) recently launched a flagship publication entitled Poverty and Inequality: Diagnosis, Prognosis and Responses, described by former Minister of Public Enterprises Alec Erwin as “a rich and timely contribution to a national reflection on the establishment and quality of our democratic nation state”.

“This is a timely volume as we approach 25 years of South African democracy and more so as we prepare for the national democratic elections,” said Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Tawana Kupe. “Our elections also have much to do with how we as a country engage the persistent problem of poverty and inequalities that continue to polarise our society.”

While the world has seen a decline in absolute poverty, it has also seen a rise in economic inequality. This is the case in all major economies as well as emerging ones, including South Africa.

The publication asks key questions such as whether there is a South African explanation of poverty and inequality, how this compares to other contexts and countries, how the discussion on poverty and inequality can be taken forward, and whether wealth taxation is a viable instrument to reduce wealth inequality in SA.

“This volume offers much perspective on critical areas of thinking,” said Dean of Humanities Professor Vasu Reddy, who edited the publication along with Prof Crain Soudien, CEO of the HSRC, and Prof Ingrid Woolard of Stellenbosch University. “I do not think it offers solutions, but it opens up and surfaces critical concerns that enable further engagement with poverty and inequalities as complex and multidimensional issues.”

“Poverty and inequalities are centrally Social Science issues, but they in turn are often products of wider scientific, technological developments or processes,” according to Dr Phil Mjwara, Director General of the DST. “For many societal challenges, it is people and our behaviour that can help, or hinder, our attempts to address them. An important focus for the Social Sciences must be to continue to innovate in ways that research findings can successfully inform policy and practice.

“The HSRC’s State of the Nation annual series has become a significant resource for in-depth and critical analysis of key political and socioeconomic issues in South Africa,” Dr Mjwara added. “A wide range of leading scholars contribute their rigorous empirical research findings and analyses to create a holistic picture of the complexities and challenges that we face as a nation. As a series, it provides on-going analyses of trends and challenges, while offering innovative insights into future scenarios.”

This authoritative publication carries contemporary data about South Africa’s socioeconomics issues, including the persistence of poverty and the growth of inequality.

“The complexity of poverty and inequality in South Africa and the multiple factors behind them require that we develop explanations that account for its durability and persistence,” said Prof Soudien of the HSRC. “These explanations must make clear the multiple facets and interrelationships of poverty and inequality, and how, in their reach into the everyday experience of South Africans, they work.”

- Author Xolani Mathibela

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