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    Conference Papers

    Role Of A Capable Developmental State In Addressing the Injustice Of Inequality

    Oxfam and Civil Society Inequality Symposium

    On the 29th & 30th October Oxfam South Africa convened a national symposium on Inequality in  Midrand, Johannesburg.  MISTRA Executive Director, Joel Netshitenzhe, gave the keynote address. 


    Role Of A Capable Developmental State In Addressing the Injustice Of Inequality

    By Joel Netshitenzhe

    Presented at the Oxfam and Civil Society Inequality Symposium


    What are the major trends with regard to income inequality in South Africa?

    First, income poverty has been declining since the advent of democracy.

    Second, functional distribution of national income and, with it, income inequality has not improved. Interestingly, during the period of high growth (2003 – 2008), indications were that the rich were better able to take advantage of the benefits, including the wealth effect.

    Third, the change in the share of national income has not favoured the ‘middle class’, despite the fact that their proportion of the population has increased, with the per capita expenditure growth incidence curve evincing a U shape.

    Fourth, being employed does not, on its own, guarantee an escape from poverty and this has worsened anomie within the labour market and across society.

    Fifth, the inequality measures show a declining trend between races, while there is a rising trend within races.

    Sixth, inequality in South Africa’s labour market is aggravated by the skills shortages which do add a premium to salaries; while on the other hand; the oversupply of unskilled labour pushes wages down at the lower end.

    [A lesson one has learnt when going through some of the background information, is the need to differentiate between income and expenditure data, for the latter can evince prevalence of debt and remittances, and thus distort the actual picture.]



    Beyond understanding inequality trends, this Symposium is meant to contribute to the identification of the various interventions that a developmental state can and should make to reduce the scourge. In other words, reducing inequality as such needs to be an express part of governmental policy.

    The question then arises: what is the extent to which insights on inequality have impacted on South African policy-making and discourse?


    To download full paper click here: Netshitenzhe Inequality Oxfam.pdfNetshitenzhe Inequality Oxfam.pdf

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