Research: Volunteers in South Africa 1

Our Research posts are about the latest academic research being done in the School of Economics. This week:

The characteristics of volunteers in South Africa

Volunteers are people who spend their time for the benefit of others. Their work is quite important in a time when social safety nets are weak and there are ever increasing demands on welfare organisations. It is estimated that approximately 1.2 million South Africans participate in volunteer activities. This amounts to millions of hours and billions of Rands of value had the activities been compensated. In a recent ERSA working paper Dr Ferdinand Niyimbanira and Prof Waldo Krugell asked, who are these good Samaritans? What are the characteristics of these volunteers and how are these related to the number of hours that they spend as volunteers? Are they looking for psychological reward, or business contacts and skills?

The paper uses data from the South African Volunteer Activities Survey and examines the links between individuals’ resources and volunteerism.

A quick description of the data already shows an interesting fact:  Blacks volunteer on average almost double the number of hours that the other population groups do, but the analysis shows that this cannot be explained by individual ‘assets’ such as gender, level of education, work status or income. Volunteers table

A regression model of the predictors of the number of hours that people volunteer shows two predictors that are statistically significant. First, compared to the Black and Coloured population groups, being White is negatively and significantly associated with hours volunteered. In fact, Whites volunteer 8.5 per cent fewer hours compared to the Black and Coloured population groups. Second, when “others” received the benefit of the volunteer work, compared to household members, family or friends, there is a positive and significant association with hours volunteered – 9.4 per cent more hours are volunteered. More…

Economics honours students take to the streets for research Reply

The months of September and October were very busy months for the Development Economics Honours class.  The lecturer (Prof Derick Blaauw) initiated a class project on day labouring in the informal economy in Potchefstroom. The project forms part of a bigger inter-disciplinary project with the lecturers from Anthropology. All ethical clearances were obtained as required by research protocol. Day labourers research

The aim of the project was to answer questions such as, who are the day labourers, and what are their employment histories in terms of formal sector jobs and experience? The class went through all the steps of survey research of this nature.  Time was spent on recognizance to determine the places where the day labourers congregate to find temporary employment for a day or more. Records were kept and in the meantime a survey instrument was developed with everyone’s inputs. Prof Blaauw combined the questions and a questionnaire was compiled. The lecturer and students then embarked on the field work. The experience brought the students closer to the reality of being unemployed and then it was no longer merely a statistic in book or on a web site. The endeavors of real people at the coal face of an economy that cannot absorb them provided a reality check and a connection to the real world not possible to achieve by only staying in the comfort of an air conditioned classroom.

The data has now been captured and the 75 respondents’ data will be used for analysis by the students. We will report in the findings in due course. This will be shared with relevant parties and the students expressed the need for this to be the start of long term project with tangible results and the buy in of relevant role-players such as the municipality to improve the lives of these men on the side of the road. The lecturer agrees!

A renaissance reconsidered Reply

We don’t have very active economic history researchers in our School, but we are keen on following developments in this field and have a few proud members of the Economic History Society of South Africa. If you think that we have to know how we got here in order to know where we are going, you are going to find this post interesting (and you need to start following Johan’s blog)…

Johan Fourie's blog

AEHW The 2014 African Economic History Workshop, ably organised by Leigh Gardner (centre), kicks off at the LSE.

Last week I attended the African Economic History Workshop at the London School of Economics. It was an excellent workshop, with 40 high-quality papers presented and more than 70 attendees. That is remarkable growth if you consider the previous African Economic History Workshop I attended, in Geneva in 2012, attracted around 10 papers and perhaps not more than 25 participants.

EHRAfricaThe reasons for the renewed interest in African economic history is discussed in the introduction to a new special issue of the Economic History Review entitled The Renaissance of African Economic History, incidentally the same title I used in a blog post in October last year. African economies are rising, if you haven’t heard, and with it comes greater interest in understanding the long-term determinants of this rise in prosperity. For long, much of the literature focused on the…

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