The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) represent a global commitment to fostering sustainable development by 2030. Highly ambitious, the 17 high-level SDGs, 169 targets, and 232 indicators pose significant challenges to politicians, policymakers, researchers, and activists. The subject of inequality appears throughout the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, both directly and indirectly, and many goals and targets of the SDGs are clearly linked to inequality. Several leading researchers at UCT have been involved in the SDG process since 193 world leaders committed to the goals in 2015. Prof. Tom Moultrie, director of the Centre for Actuarial Research in the Faculty of Commerce, has been closely involved in considering what data are needed for measuring and monitoring the progress towards meeting the SDGs. He has shared with the PII some reflections on his roles in this important process.
The #FMF debate has been dominated by calls for completely free higher education for all, or at least for a larger proportion of students. Such funding models, however, would create material unfairness and divert scarce resources away from projects more likely to combat inequality. They also would risk undermining social cohesion through divisive and stigmatising means testing. These were some of the points Dr George Hull, a member of PII’s workstream on social cohesion, made during a day of expert testimony to the Commission of Inquiry into Higher Education and Training (Fees Commission). Dr Hull has been advocating for a universal loan model with income contingent repayment as the fairest and most efficient way of ensuring adequate access to higher education without undermining social cohesion.
The PII has been part of a significant study on social cohesion in South Africa which has shown it is possible to measure and track this important domain of the nation’s well-being by using existing national survey data. Researchers now hope that its value for inclusive growth policies will encourage ongoing tracking of social cohesion by using a dedicated Statistics South Africa survey for data collection. The study, which explored the relationship between social cohesion and inequality, was a collaboration with the Agence Française de Développement and the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation.
Recent studies by the PII, the World Bank and others have reconfirmed that South Africa remains one of the most unequal countries in the world. These findings have underlined the urgency for effective policies to reduce the relentless poverty and inequality in the country. What is needed are strategies for inclusion that address the root causes of poverty, enhance opportunities for all – including through growth – and thus smoothen inequalities. Prof. Hiroyuki Hino, a Visiting Professor at the Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit until recently, believes the quest for such strategies requires deliberate attention to create social cohesion alongside out-of-the-box approaches to achieving economic growth.