Theme 2: Employment, unemployment and livelihoods

In this theme, both unemployment and employment are examined. It is recognised that small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are pivotal in driving inclusive economic growth through job creation, and the government is committed to growing this sector. However, a lack of data has made it difficult to estimate the SME sector’s contribution to GDP and employment, which directly impacts on government’s ability to identify and implement workable policies. This theme area therefore aims to contribute to this information gap by funding research and study tours. In addition, it focuses on the crucial topic of youth employment and unemployment.


The PSPPD Phase II is supporting a number of research initiatives aimed at understanding the complexities of employment, unemployment and livelihoods and the reports from these projects will be available in the Repository as they are published.

Exploration of Impact Bonds for Results Focused SME / SE Development Impact Bonds or Pay for Success Instruments are innovative financial instruments that can improve economic and social outcomes while saving money  (University of Cape Town)

Impact Bonds / Pay for Success instruments use upfront risk capital from private investors to pilot social interventions eg developing Small, Medium and Micro-Sized Enterprises (SMMEs), stimulating innovation around inclusive business models, creating jobs, raising incomes and alleviating poverty.  Outcome funders (eg government) commit to repaying the risk capital plus returns to the investor only if the intervention successfully meets pre-determined outcomes.

Government and small-scale agriculture: understanding the successes and failures in respect of learning, planning and implementation    (University of Fort Hare, Agricultural and Rural Development Research Institute (ARDRI))

The proposed action will carefully describe and analyse current practices among small-scale farmers, among association/groups that serve and represent small-scale farmers, and within government, and reveal why they inhibit learning and problem solving, among other things.  In addition, the proposed action would seek to demonstrate alternatives through active engagement with farmers’ associations and, if possible, local-level officials who are meant to support small-scale farmers.

“Exploring the potential of local food systems for sustainable rural development – A case study of the Vaalharts area   (North West University, Africa Unit for Transdisciplinary Health Research)

The overall objective is to provide empirical evidence on the potential of local food systems (LFS) to contribute to sustainable development among rural resource-poor communities by investigating six sustainability components (economic, environmental, socio-cultural, quality, governance, and health and nutrition) with emphasis on short food supply chains from producers to consumers.

‘Ground truth-ing’ rural livelihoods: reformulating rural development paradigms and policy through qualitative-quantitative integrated research     (University of the Western Cape  )

The overall objective is to generate policy relevant knowledge by explicating SA’s dominant rural development paradigms and critically evaluate them in relation to livelihood research.  Dialogue the findings with stakeholders, and disseminating to reformulate policy for inclusive growth.

This study is methodologically innovative, both in qualitative-quantitative integration, and extensive use of time series data.  It will include attention to cross-cutting issues such as gendered dynamics, and the land-based affordances for rural livelihoods within the biophysical (ecological) environment in the focal research context.  The research component of the study will rely on a sequence of qualitative and quantitative integrated research.  In-depth case studies will be conducted, as well as quantitative analysis of the NIDS  datasets.  In addition, spatial census data analysis will be completed.

 Harnessing livelihood strategies for Pro-poor policy interventions in Eastern Cape South Africa   (University of Fort Hare, Nedbank Chair in Economics Project, Department of Economics)

The overall objective is to map and analyse the livelihoods patterns vis-à-vis the existing constraints in low income areas in the Eastern Cape Province with the objective of identifying policy intervention points that enhance the alleviation and elimination of poverty within these areas.  The specific objectives are:

– Determine the livelihood diversification patterns, factors affecting them and related constraints within the identified areas

– Identify which of these livelihood strategies have the potential for sustainability and greater higher likelihood for effective policy intervention

– From the two specific objectives above, come up with a choice set of strategies around which policy intervention points for pro poor interventions can be built, taking into account community and government constraints and the expected scale of impact

Job Counselling, Productivity signals and Employment (Stellenbosch University)

The project’s overall objective is to assist the South African government in achieving its goal of reducing youth unemployment via the rigorous evaluation of alternative public employment service programmes.

The project plans to:

1. Evaluate the effectiveness of different devices that can help unemployed youths send more reliable signals of their skills to potential employers.

2. Strengthen the capacity of government labour centres to assist job-seekers through existing employment service programmes.

3. Assist South African policymakers and the research community to better understand youth unemployment.

4. Create two fellowships – based at UCT and Stellenbosch – through which junior South African researchers from previously disadvantaged backgrounds will learn about innovative research methodologies and participate in different stages of the project.

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