Historically, South African citizens from the rural areas flocked to the cities in search of better jobs and living conditions, a trend that occurs to this day. Once one finds work in the city, sending money to the family members who are left behind adds relief to their livelihood – a study by Dr Mduduzi Biyase, a Lecturer in the School of Economics at the University of Johannesburg (UJ), finds.
His PhD thesis was entitled, “Essays on the determinants and impact of remittances in South Africa”.
Termed migrant workers (though the subjects are South Africans who work in cities but originate from elsewhere in the country), their characters determine their remittances. Dr Biyase’s research was presented in three essays: The first essay econometrically analyses the determinants of the probability and level of remittances. It finds that these determinants consist of certain features of the receiving households, but also of some characteristics of the migrants who remit.
Using a Fixed effect Vector Decomposition estimator, the second essay investigates whether remittances reduce poverty in South Africa and concludes that they do. The third essay investigates whether households are able to insure against specific idiosyncratic shocks and how households protect consumption against these shocks. The evidence suggests that consumption is largely protected through borrowing rather than receiving increased remittances.
Who is Dr Mduduzi Biyase?
Dr Biyase is from a rural village called Hlokozi in southern KwaZulu-Natal where he attended the local public schools. His father, Mr Khawulane Biyase, was working as a migrant worker in the Johannesburg mines, but later worked as a cleaner at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (PMB), returning home roughly once a month. He joined UJ as a lecturer in 2004 after obtaining a Master’s degree in Economics at the UKZN.
He triumphed against all odds to get to where he is in his career. Dr Biyase graduated with a Doctorate on Thursday, 7 May 2018 – the first member of his family to have even completed high school, let alone obtaining a degree. From his father’s meagre wages as a migrant worker, Dr Biyase was able to undertake university study. He seized the opportunity and progressed all the way to obtain a Doctoral degree in Economics at UJ.
He ventured into the economics field because he felt that for people to alleviate poverty, he explains, they needed to understand the underlying economic factors. “The essential part of economic growth in South Africa can be realised when we overcome poverty, unemployment and inequality. Moreover, we can grow as people both personally and professionally when we continue to open ourselves through education and teaching the fundamentals of the socio-economic development,” says Dr Biyase.
He adds, “I use my expertise in the field of Econometrics to produce research using statistical data and econometric methods to make a difference in academia and our society.”
Asked what students who are in similar family backgrounds can learn from him, he says that people should not be restricted to grow academically due to their impoverished communities and circumstances. His ambition is to become a National Research Foundation (NRF)-rated economist.
Working in an institution such as the University of Johannesburg, he says, has enabled him to grow significantly due to the mentorship he received from his Supervisor, Professor Fiona Tregenna, a UJ SARChI Chair in Industrial Development.