Economic Justice for All
The IEJ’s core objective is to provide policy makers and progressive social forces in South Africa with access to rigorous economic analysis, and well thought through policy options, as a basis for advancing systemic change. Interventions proposed by the IEJ must advance social justice, promote equitable economic development that realises socio-economic rights, and ensure a thriving, democratic, environmentally sustainable, and inclusive economy that places the needs of the majority at the centre.
By acting as a research and policy hub, the IEJ builds links between the research community and the labour movement, progressive civil society and activist organisations, and elements within the state and business. Our research agenda is developed in an ongoing collaboration with these social partners, and the project outputs are made accessible and appropriate for policy work. In South Africa, such an organic relationship between an economics research institute and organisations with a mass constituency is unique.
In addition to proposing immediate economic reforms, the IEJ contributes towards the development of a range of coherent longer-term programmes aimed at deeper structural change. This requires new thinking, which responds to changing domestic and international conditions, and begins to reimagine progressive economic alternatives, by going beyond old paradigms.
- Macroeconomic policy – including tax justice, monetary and financial sector policy, and participatory budgeting to advance socio-economic rights.
- The changing nature of work (globalisation, mechanisation, and precarity) and how it relates to living wages, redistribution, public employment and the need for new frameworks to promote decent work and for new forms of community and labour organising.
- Climate justice as an indispensable element of economic justice, focusing on how climate breakdown disproportionately impacts those least powerful and what sort of economic reform can support tackling the climate emergency.
- The role of the South African state in achieving equitable development by leveraging state-owned enterprises, state financing, and infrastructure provision.
- Equitable access to basic social goods – such as food, water or transport – and the economics behind the systems through which these social goods are provided.
- Rethinking economics, which aims to bolster progressive economic thinking, particularly in our universities among a new generation of students, and economic literacy in general.
- Reimagining economic alternatives, to engage creatively in long-term programmatic thinking, in collaboration with leading intellectuals and fraternal organisations.
The work of the IEJ contributes towards changing the national dialogue around economics and including the currently marginalised within that dialogue. It is our belief that economic policy research is a vital part of building a social justice agenda that can be advanced by progressive social forces in order to achieve a more just economy.
The IEJ was launched by a group of South African academics, activists and former government policymakers in September 2018.
The project broadens, and institutionalises work successfully undertaken through the National Minimum Wage Research Initiative (NMW-RI) at Wits University. The NMW-RI provided extensive academic research in support of a carefully-crafted national minimum wage and contributed a much-needed progressive voice to the public debate. The research was drawn upon by Labour, Community, and others within the NEDLAC political process, and was used for organisational education.
The NMW-RI showed how academic research can be made policy-relevant and directly assist in achieving the desired policy outcome. It is unlikely that the outcome of the negotiations would have been the same without the NMW-RI research. The Deputy President’s Expert Panel, amongst others, adopted its key arguments.