Research & Innovation 2015-16 - Page 29

specific plan of action. Every country needs to
think about how to implement them so that they
can show progress.“
“Unless you change the structure of the growth path,
the schooling system and where people live, you will
always have this replication of an unequal growth path.
Bhorat and his team continue to provide back-up
research and a knowledge base.
“With very large firms dominating industries in
South Africa, smaller enterprises and the informal
sector find it very difficult to break into those
markets. Much of the economic output is under the
tutelage of very few firms. The ownership structure
requires change, but in a way that retains incentives
for companies.”
His work for the UNDP has helped him to shape a
research agenda on a series of economic-policy
questions, related to the SDGs, but focused on subSaharan Africa.
As a SARCHi chair, Bhorat’s approach is to combine
vigorous, academically credible research with policyrelevant questions and issues, from the national
minimum-wage debate to student financial aid.
Shaping Africa’s research agenda
He has also initiated an active research agenda
on sub-Saharan Africa, grounded in empirical
labour economics, but applied to low-income
countries in Africa.
Looking ahead, he says certain issues deserve
more careful analytical work. These include the
debate around the national minimum wage, the rise
of labour brokers, employment generation in the
economy, and the future of Skills Education Training
Authorities (SETAs). The unit will continue to be
central in providing analytically rigorous information
to relevant government departments and ministers.
“It’s virgin territory globally, and hopefully we are
placing ourselves as a UCT collective at the forefront
of a unique and innovative global programme.”
The SARChI has been strengthened within the
context of the Africa Growth Initiative at the
Brookings Institute, where Bhorat is a non-resident
senior fellow.
Bhorat’s work has earned the recognition and
praise of his peers.
Under the poverty, inequality and growth banner,
researchers are exploring regional drivers of growth
in west, east and southern Africa.
“We need to think about disruptive growth strategies
… about changing the way we do business, to
redirect state subsidies from traditional industries, in
some cases, and to new industries. We need to put
employment at the centre of industrial and trade
policy,” says Bhorat.
One of the key questions researchers are asking
is how to protect employment in a job-starved
economy. “The growth and development path in
Africa doesn’t have manufacturing at its centre.
We need to build capabilities and links with other
institutions to see how we can change this.”
“In my opinion, Haroon is South Africa’s pre-eminent
economist working at the interface of research and
policy,” says Professor Murray Leibbrandt, SARChl
Chair in Poverty and Inequality.
“He is listened to and enjoys the trust of government
officials at the highest level and across a number
of ministries. This trust is forged on the basis of the
measured, reliable research that he always brings
into the policy processes in which he is involved.”
Hope for the future
Bhorat holds a number of key positions in global policy
organisations, including recently being appointed a
member of the World Bank’s Commission on Global
Poverty. While his work schedule is demanding, he
thrives on what he does.
South Africa’s labour market
In South Africa, Bhorat’s name has become
synonymous with labour-market research, particularly
his investigation into a national minimum wage for
South Africa. Together with a very dedicated team of
researchers, he has explored the impact of minimumwage laws on employment, wages and hours of work,
and has advised and consulted on sectoral minimumwage rates.
“I’m very passionate about the work I do. I’ve always
loved the idea of interrogating something further
intellectually, but hopefully with an eye on a policy
question, or a societal problem.” And on home turf,
despite a somewhat bleak economic outlook, he has
great hope for the country.
In South Africa, the most unequal emerging economy in
the world, these kinds of questions are critical.
The huge inequality in education in South Africa and the
unequal structure of the economy has been driven by
South Africa’s fractious apartheid past.
“I’m very optimistic. I’m South African through and
through, and we remain optimists.”
By Kim Cloete. Image supplied by Southern Africa
Labour and Development Initiative.
No poverty, economic growth and reduced inequalities 24

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