Research forging pathways between South Africa, China and the UK

17 June 2011

For the first time researchers from South Africa and China will be working together on a joint data project with UK social scientists. This international collaboration between researchers in the UK, China and South Africa will use existing data to answer global issues facing all three countries. The 12 new Pathfinder projects are jointly funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) and the National Research Foundation (NRF) in South Africa and cover a wide variety of topics including wellbeing, social mobility and growth.

Each of the three countries involved is going through rapid social change. China is experiencing unprecedented economic growth which is dramatically improving living standards and greater personal choice, for example, of higher education and labour markets. South Africa still feels the economic implications of being internationally isolated twenty years ago and ruled by apartheid and effects such as lack of economic empowerment among the disadvantaged groups remain. At the same time there are a number of economic development challenges facing all three countries – these include sustaining adequate job growth and dealing with the economic consequences of an ageing population.

Commenting on the Pathfinder projects, ESRC's Chief Executive, Professor Paul Boyle said, "Research in China and South Africa has grown rapidly in the last few years so it is important for UK social scientists to work with their international counterparts to tackle the global challenges we all face. Research in common areas will have important implications for the UK; supporting UK social scientists on international projects creates additional resources which offer new perspectives on UK issues, and increases the potential for UK research to have an international impact."

The Pathfinder Research Projects include:

• Professor A Park, University of Oxford – Understanding Inequality in Elderly Well-being in China and the UK (RES-238-25-0036) in collaboration with Professor Y Zhao, Peking University

• Professor I Timaeus, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine – Poverty and Inequalities in Child Welfare Outcomes in South Africa: An analysis of panel data (RES-238-25-0030) in collaboration with Professor J May, University of KwaZulu-Natal

• Dr S Alvanides, Northumbria University – School progression, school choice and travel to school amongst urban South African secondary school learners (RES-238-25-0047) in collaboration with Professor L Richter, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg

• Mr D McLennan, University of Oxford – The relationship between Spatial Inequality and Attitudes to Inequality in South Africa (RES-538-25-0026) in collaboration with Mr B Roberts, Human Sciences Research Council

• Professor L Song, University of Nottingham – The Impacts of Fall in Exports on Livelihoods in China: Urban Unemployment, Rural Poverty and the Welfare of Rural-Urban Migrants (RES-238-25-0035) in collaborations with Professor S Li, Beijing Normal University

• Professor T Arun, University of Central Lancashire – Microfoundations of Access to Finance: Demand-side Perspectives in South Africa (RES-238-25-0031) in collaboration with Dr Asmah, Brookings Institution, Washington

• Dr S Padmadas, University of Southampton – Coping with the Urban Environment? Gender Disadvantage, Social Inequalities and Wellbeing of Economic Migrants in China (RES-238-25-0045) in collaboration with Professor B Li, China Population and Dev Research Centre

• Professor R Jenkins, University of East Anglia – Chinese Competition and the Restructuring of South African Manufacturing (RES-238-25-0039) in collaboration with Dr L Edwards, University of Cape Town

• Professor Jane Falkingham, University of Southampton – Assessing the impact of internal labour migration on intergenerational support, health and income: the cases of China and South Africa (RES-238-25-0044) in collaboration with Professor Ling Zhu, China Academy of Social Sciences

• Mr A Bryson, National Institute of Economic and Social Research – CEO Effects on Firm Performance in China: The Role of Incentives, Firm Governance Arrangements and CEO Human Capital (RES-538-25-0029) in collaboration with M Zhou, Zhejiang University with additional funds from NSFC

• Professor X Liu, Loughborough University – Return migrants and international knowledge flows: China and the UK (RES-238-25-0027) in collaboration with Dr J Lu, Peking University with additional funds from NSFC

• Professor Y Li, University of Manchester – Social mobility and social capital in China and Britain, a comparative study (RES-238-25-0043) in collaboration with Professor Y Bian, Xian Jiaotong University with additional funds from NSFC

The ESRC has worked in collaboration with the NSFC and NRF to commission the Pathfinder projects, three of which have also been awarded additional funding of approximately £10k from the NSFC.

For further information contact:

ESRC Press Office:

Notes for editors

  1. Pathfinder Research Projects are aimed at supporting the ESRC in pursuit of its international agenda by broadening the outreach of the Council. Projects will also contribute to the implementation of UK Strategy for Data Resources for Social and Economic Research 2009-2012 (National Data Strategy) that advances a strategy for international data requirements.

  2. The initiative as a whole will also contribute to the RCUK programmes on Global Uncertainties: Security for all in a Changing World, Living with Environmental Change and Global Food Security. The eleven new projects build upon twelve projects between the ESRC and India and Brazil. 

  3. The National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) is an organization directly affiliated to the State Council for the management of the National Natural Science Fund. 

  4. The National Research Foundation (NRF) in South Africa supports and promotes research through funding, human capacity development and the provision of the necessary research facilities, in order to facilitate the creation of knowledge, innovation and development in all fields of the natural and social sciences, humanities and technology, including indigenous knowledge systems.