Servaas van der Berg gives Keynote Address at Biennial ESSA Conference

Professor Servaas van der Berg was given the privilege of opening the 2013 Economic Society of South Africa Conference in Bloemfontein with a keynote address on the topic of education, poverty and affluence in the South African context. The address sourced insights gained from various ReSEP studies, giving a holistic overview not only of the purview of the research-scope of the group, but also of some of the most pressing socio-economic problems that the country is facing.

Van der Berg argued that the social mobility, which is needed to correct the inequality within South Africa, is hampered by the failure of the school system in converting resources to quality educational outcomes. In South Africa, labour market inequality accounts for about 80% of overall inequality. Given the large impact of education level and quality of individuals on their earnings, the two-tier schooling system is exacerbating the inequalities of the past by failing to produce skilled workers.

The performance of South African students has consistently been found to be far below the average of comparable countries, even with far more resources being allocated per student. According to van der Berg, as a result of functionality and accountability issues, increasing the resources brings little improvement in currently weak schools.

The root causes of these problems will remain for decades to come, so for the meantime he gives three policy recommendations: The current social grant system should be continued within fiscal constraints; the delivery of social services should be improved; and economic conditions conducive to for economic growth should be pursued.

The presentation is available here.

ReSEP members presented various other papers on socio-economic policy at the conference, including the following: