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Education and work for young South Africans: exploring Human Capital Theory, its conceptualisation, consequences and short-comings

18 June 2018
12:30 - 14:00

Prof. Salim Vallyis the director of the Centre for Education Rights and Transformation and an associate professor at the Faculty of Education, University of Johannesburg
Dr Angelique Wildeschut(ESD)

Date: 18 June 2018    Time: 12:30 – 14:00  Venues: Pretoria, Durban and Cape Town

Work for youth has been widely acknowledged as South Africa’s greatest challenge. Many research projects and other initiatives that attempt to address this challenge are either implicitly or explicitly underpinned by Human Capital Theory (HCT), a set of ideas that were largely unheard of prior to the 1950s, but are now so widely accepted that they have almost become common sense. HCT states that human beings can be conceived of as forms of capital, to be invested in by governments or available for self-investment through individual’s rational choices. Investments in human capital occur through spending money on education, training and skills, which are then theorised to produce a return or yield on that investment.

The theory is often used to explain the affluence of wealthy countries in the global North, based on their supposedly superior education and training systems, or the poverty and ‘unemployability’ of certain groups, who are proclaimed to be ‘uneducated’. Human capital development is usually seen as a necessary precondition for economic growth and the creation of jobs.

In this seminar Prof Salim Vally will outline and critique Human Capital Theory and suggest ways that might make it possible to begin to theorise education and work as social justice rather than economic growth concerns.

Pretoria: HSRC Video Conference, 1st floor HSRC Library Human Sciences Research Council, 134 Pretorius Street, Pretoria. Contact: Arlene Grossberg, Tel: (012) 302 2811, e-mail:

Cape Town:
HSRC, Merchant House 116-118 Buitengracht Street, Cape Town. Contact: Carmen Erasmus, Tel: (021) 466 7827, e-mail:

Durban:  The Atrium, 5th Floor, 430 Peter Mokaba Ridge, Berea, 4001. Contact: Ridhwaan Khan, Tel: (031) 242 5400, cell: 083 788 2786, e-mail:

The HSRC seminar series is funded by the Department of Science and Technology (DST). The views and opinions expressed therein as well as findings and statements of the seminar series do not necessarily represent the views of the DST

Kindly note that seminars can now be accessed via the Vidyo link:

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