Research Associate (Johannesburg) - J-PAL Africa

J-PAL Africa
  • South Africa
  • Master's
  • Other advanced degree
  • Honours
  • PhD
Start Date (Earliest):
Start Date (Latest):
Length of Commitment:
One year

 J-PAL Africa - Research Associate - Johannesburg

Summary: J-PAL Africa is looking for a Johannesburg-based Research Associate to work on a series of economic research projects to develop and test policy interventions that will help young people search for jobs and reduce barriers to them finding good jobs.

They will also work on policy advice for the South African Presidency on the design of programmes in the Presidential Youth Employment Stimulus, including the SRD R350 grant.

This position is for an ambitious, innovative early career researcher who will gain hands-on experience in applied microeconomic research as ideal preparation for graduate study or work in economic policy. The successful candidate will hold a strong Honours degree in economics or another discipline providing training in quantitative social science, and be able to clean and analyse data using Stata.

They will be a committed and collaborative team player with a systematic and well-organised approach to work, high levels of accuracy and attention to detail, along with a demonstrated ability to take responsibility for the delivery of research outputs.

About the team: The Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) is a global network of academics (‘affiliates’) who specialise in conducting randomised evaluations (also known as randomised control trials or ‘RCTs’) of social policies/programs to generate scientific evidence about what works in the fight against poverty. J-PAL has offices in universities globally, including at the University of Cape Town (UCT) School of Economics, where this post is based. These offices run randomised trials on behalf of affiliates. This post-holder will be part of a research team led by J-PAL affiliates Dr Robert Garlick (Duke University) and Dr Kate Orkin (Oxford University), as well as post-doctoral and doctoral researchers who work with them.

This position will be based at our office in Johannesburg for proximity to the study partner organisations, program beneficiaries and J-PAL Africa’s research manager – all based in Gauteng and surrounding provinces.

About the role: The team is working on a series of economic research projects to develop and test interventions that will help young people search for jobs and reduce barriers to them finding good jobs. Barriers to effective job search include poor information about the labour market, difficulties signalling their skills to employers, high search costs and the danger of being scammed while applying for jobs. The team is working with the Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator, as well as the South African Presidency, on developing and testing a series of interventions, including helping job seekers signal their skills to employers, providing access to information about the labour market through the platform, and expanding cash grants for jobseekers.

More information about the projects is here:





The role will involve the following responsibilities, working closely with the internal project team and international research team:

1) Design, implement, and manage survey data collection activities in Johannesburg, South Africa. This includes designing, programming and piloting survey instruments, setting up data collection systems to ensure data quality (including getting out into the field, setting up workflows and equipment, figuring out solutions to field issues), quality assurance of collected data, and training management of fieldworkers. It also includes managing finances and donor reporting and ensuring the study complies with ethics and data security protocols.

2) Manage collaborations with NGOs or government departments that are implementing interventions which are being tested in randomised controlled trials. This includes scoping new partnerships, ensuring interventions are implemented in the field as intended in the study design and maintaining relationships.

3) Support writing of academic papers, including conducting data cleaning and conducting and interpreting original analysis on collected survey data, conducting literature reviews and drafting summaries of analysis.

4) Support policy work for the South African Presidency on social protection and active labour market policies. Previous holders of the position have conducted literature reviews and drafted policy notes to investigate recommendations for the structure of social protection measures. Based in part on the recommendations from these notes, the South African government rolled out the Social Relief and Distress Grant in May 2020, temporarily increased cash grants paid to 18 million South Africans during lockdown, and has extended the grant a number of times since then.

The post-holder will also have responsibilities as a team member, including organising within-project meetings and workshops, setting up and maintaining systems and records, and training and managing others.

Opportunities for growth and development: The post is excellent preparation for academically strong economics or public policy students interested in graduate study at Master's and/or doctoral level. Garlick and Orkin are the University of Cape Town alumni with an interest in supporting the development of early-career South African economists. They place a heavy emphasis on mentoring post-holders and most previous post-holders have gone on to doctoral work, including at Stanford, the University of California, Oxford and LSE. For those interested in a career in economics the role offers a great opportunity to receive mentoring towards further postgraduate study. These roles provide excellent opportunities to work at the frontier of rigorous research and evidence-based policymaking, contributing to knowledge that can improve the lives of citizens across Africa and beyond.

J-PAL Africa provides the flexibility for accelerated growth and learning by supporting proactivity and encouraging top performers to take on more responsibility. Research associates, in particular, are given significant project and staff management responsibilities and challenging research tasks. Our research team culture is rooted in rigorous, careful practices, backed by a system of scientific oversight and a supportive management structure. The post-holder will receive sponsored formal training where required.

Essential criteria:

●     A minimum of an Honours degree in economics, a quantitative social sciences, or other Honours level degrees involving training in statistics or coursework in quantitative research methods

●     Excellent knowledge of MS Word, MS Excel and Stata

●     Comfort with using new software / a willingness to learn new tools (learning to programme in software for administering surveys will be required although training will be provided)

●     Strong oral and written communication skills in English

●     A systematic, thorough and well-organised approach to work, with high levels of accuracy and attention to detail

●     Excellent management and organisational skills with the ability to work independently and to be supervised remotely

●     A committed and collaborative team player, with the ability to work constructively and effectively with research partners;

●     Strong evidence of a flexible can-do approach, self-motivation, resilience and a willingness to adapt to the changing needs and priorities of the project;

●     Demonstrated ability to take responsibility for delivery of outputs to specific deadlines.

●     Valid driver’s licence

●     Right to work in South Africa (citizenship, permanent residency or critical skills visa). Note: J-PAL Africa cannot sponsor work permits

Desirable criteria:

●     Prior experience in field or lab research in microeconomics

●     Familiarity with randomised evaluations / randomised control trials

●     Experience with data cleaning, merging and management using Stata

●     Survey programming experience in SurveyCTO or equivalent

●     Proficiency in an official South African language other than English (e.g. isiZulu, isiXhosa)

●     A demonstrated interest in labour or behavioural economics in low- and middle-income countries

How to Apply

  • Please follow this link and complete the form. Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis and only shortlisted candidates will be contacted and will likely be required to undergo an assessment process before interview rounds. Recruitment will follow UCT’s hiring procedure and remuneration is commensurate with UCT pay scales. UCT is committed to the pursuit of excellence, diversity and redress. Our Employment Equity Policy is available here. Research Associate positions are typically at PC08 on a T1 fixed-term contract with the University of Cape Town (see here).