The HSRC’s Inclusive Economic Development (IED) division undertakes research to transform educational outcomes and increase economic participation. It recognises that education and the economy have long been linked, and therefore conducts research in both areas, sometimes discretely, many times overlapping, and through a multidisciplinary lens. The IED division tries to understand educational performance and improve learning for those who have had unequal starting points, and interrogate the social, spatial and structural obstacles to economic participation to bring about the gains and growth South Africa needs. A large part of the IED division’s work includes assessments of the effectiveness of government programmes in maths and science education, skills development, land, housing and economic development; participation of young people in accessing dignified and decent work; the transformation of higher education; and innovation that supports wider access to services and food security.
The national economy is made up of diverse regional, city and local economies. It changes constantly, affecting people’s livelihoods and living standards. Research in this strategic area seeks to understand the forces that drive temporary fluctuations in the economy, and the bigger longer-term shifts in economic structures, social relations, and spatial distribution of economic opportunities. A focus of research by the HSRC’s Inclusive Economic Development (IED) division is on innovation and how to change the economy so that it produces better outcomes for all people, including the role of the state in enacting economic policies that foster wider participation among the vulnerable and marginalised. The HSRC has considerable expertise in spatial economic development (rural, urban and regional), human settlement formation and community dynamics. The key stakeholders include the national departments of Trade, Industry and Competition; Human Settlements; Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development; local government; and National Treasury, along with key provinces and metropolitan municipalities.
Education is central to human actualisation and greatly affects young people’s life outcomes and our societies. South Africa has long struggled with the issue of quality education, and the era of technological disruption and innovation poses new challenges. The educational sector at primary, secondary and tertiary levels must respond to the need for new forms of knowledge and knowing. At the tertiary level, issues of access remain significant as well as the differentiation between university-level higher education offerings and those needed from the Tertiary Vocational Education and Training sector. Research conducted by the HSRC’s Inclusive Economic Development division looks at the planning, quality, governance, effectiveness, transformation, transitions and outcomes of education at all stages. The division’s work currently focuses on the unequal contexts of learning, assessment of achievement, the acquisition of relevant life and livelihood-ready skills in the context of changing technologies, and the future of work for youth in South Africa, Africa, and the Global South.