Research Projects

Home » Faculties of Humanities » Departments » Sociology » Research » Research Projects

The academic staff of the UJ Department of Sociology conduct research in a range of individual areas of expertise as well as in collaborative, interdisciplinary projects. These research projects range from smaller, individual studies to larger-scale inter-institutional projects with local and international scholars.

Decent work for all and the future of labour in South Africa (2019 – 2021)

Project leaders: Prof Carin Runciman and Prof Luke Sinwell

The world of work is changing. Permanent work has increasingly been replaced by casualised and outsourced labour, leading to declining rates of unionisation in South Africa. Alongside this, new technology offers new employment opportunities, as well as threatening the security of workers in existing industries through the introduction of automation. These factors combined raise challenges for the possibility of ensuring ‘decent work’, which have been identified as a key concern for the South African government’s New Growth Plan and the UN Sustainable Development Goals. This research, led by Prof Carin Runciman and Prof Luke Sinwell, aims to understand the changing landscape of labour through a focus on three key areas. One, the research will examine how the labour process is being re-organised through the processes of casualization, outsourcing and new technology. Two, the research will analyse how workers and worker organisations, unions and other forms of worker organisation, are responding. Expanding the focus beyond trade unions is vital as most precarious workers are not unionised however, this does not mean that they are not organised. There is a need to further develop our understanding of worker organisations and the role they can play in forging a decent work agenda. Finally, the research will engage with the industrial relations institutions, such as the Department of Labour and the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA), to understand how such institutions are responding to the changing world of work and to identify policy interventions that might be necessary to promote a decent work agenda in a future economy. This is an ambitious research agenda but one that is required in order to generate new knowledge and understandings of how decent work can be achieved now and into the future.

Youth development policies and practices in a South African metropolitan municipality (2018-2019)

Project leader: Dr Siphelo Ngcwangu

The project is supported by a grant from the National Research Foundation (NRF) under the programme of Centres of Excellence (COEs) for Human Development. The premise of the study is to develop an understanding of how local governments conceptualise and implement policies of youth development. This project focuses on an aspect that is not well addressed in the literature of youth development in South Africa i.e. the role of the local state in shaping youth development policies and how the youth respond to development challenges within their local areas. The project is done in partnership with UJ’s Youth Development Institute (YDISA) and will be completed by August 2019.

Higher education, inequality and the public good in four African countries: South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria and Ghana (2019 – 2020)

Project leader: Dr Siphelo Ngcwangu

The project is looking at issues around higher education and the public good in four African countries – these are Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa. It is aimed at exploring the views of different people within these countries on how they understand the notion of the public good and how it relates to higher education – so how it is taken forward in higher education institutions and across the higher education sector in that country. The project partners are the University of the Witwatersrand Centre for Researching Education and Labour (REAL), National Research Foundation (NRF), Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Newton Fund.

Migration, Identities and Trans-continental Linkages: Studying the South Indian Diaspora in South Africa. (2019 – Present)

Project leader: Prof Pragna Rugunanan

Broadly, the study seeks to address the following objectives:
1. To describe how urban space – both in terms of its built form as well as in terms of the social organisation of cities – is shaped and reshaped by South Asian migrant communities.
2. To examine the relationship between immigration and livelihoods among South Asian migrants in contemporary South Africa.
3. To determine the occupational choices that are available to the migrants, and investigate the means through which they access these choices.
4. To investigate the perceptions that migrant workers have of their own work identity and other identities (caste, race, religion, among others), and what is the relationship between these multiple identities? Are these identities static or fluid?
5. To examine how gender is negotiated in terms of migration practices, the choice of urban space, livelihoods and occupational choices. To explore how South Asian women’s identities are (re)negotiated within these new cities of the Global South.
6. To understand the nature of migrant workers’ ties to their places of origin and determine how they develop a sense of belonging to the host community

Student Communities (2011 – 2013)

Project leader: Prof Tina Uys

The full title of this project is Contested Youth Identities in Higher Education: A Comparison between Two Universities in India and South Africa. The project comprised a quantitative first phase in which undergraduate students was surveyed, a second phase involving a quantitative study of postgraduate studies, and a third, qualitative phase during which several elements of the exploratory findings are being probed further. The project benefits from the participation of eight researchers inside UJ, ie Prof Yaw Amoateng, Dr Tapiwa Chagonda, Ms Tina De Winter, Ms Tessa Dooms, Dr Liela Groenewald, Prof Kammila Naidoo, Ms Josien Reijer, Ms Letitia Smuts, Prof Anton Senekal, and Prof Cecilia van Zyl-Schalekamp. Collaborators outside UJ are Dr B Dworzanowski-Venter, Dr N Gundemeda, Ms E Kriel, Prof K Laxminarayan, and Prof S Patel. In addition to this, three doctoral students and four MA students in the UJ Department of Sociology benefit from participation in the project.