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Late in 2016, on the same day the ANC leadership met in Irene near Pretoria to discuss the future of its president, senior policymakers met some of the country’s top economic researchers just down the road to examine the social crises that threaten the fundamentals of South African democracy: poverty, unemployment and inequality. The meeting was convened by the Research Project on Employment, Income Distribution and Inclusive Growth (REDI3x3), a three-year national project initiated by the Treasury to fill in key gaps in the evidence base in support of inclusive growth. President Jacob Zuma survived the ANC’s Irene meeting. But as he now prepares to deliver his state of the nation address, the question is whether his government can tackle the big questions raised at the other Irene meeting: rising unemployment, which affects young people in particular; huge disparities in earnings and wealth; and an education system that perpetuates inequality. The research shows that many of the st...

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