Senior Researcher: Institute of Poverty Land and Agrarian Studies, University of the Western Cape

David Neves joined PLAAS in 2005. His research is broadly concerned with the strategies of people coping with the consequences of structural poverty and unemployment in urban and rural contexts. His research focuses on the dynamics of employment, rural employment, and informal sector self-employment in social networks and ‘human capital’ formation in migrant networks. He has a theoretical interest in human development and the micro-dynamics of social change to issues of chronic poverty and rural livelihoods.

Research on poverty and marginalised livelihoods is vital at present, with the state giving more attention to tackling poverty and inequality — focused on job creation, backed up by social protection. Neves’s research illustrates the key role of state social grants in sustaining networks of social reciprocity, informal self-employment and subsistence agriculture. Supported by international research networks like the CPRC, whose South African country programme Neves headed in 2009/10, there is increasing international recognition that African countries can and should implement social welfare systems to tackle poverty. Combined with minimum work guarantees, Public Works Programmes and more support for informal sector workers, social protection can provide substantial support to marginalised people. Neves’s research will continue to focus on these issues in coming years. His particular focus continues to be on how social policy can support social protection and economic development and how these can contribute to developing local economies in which the livelihoods of the marginalised and vulnerable poor can be supported, protected and allowed to grow.

In the last few years, Neves, as part of a small consortium led by the Centre for the Analysis of South African Social Policy (CASASP) at the University of Oxford, was involved in an ESRC supported project looking at ‘lone mothers’ in South Africa and the role of social security in upholding and protecting their dignity. He researched rural employment and livelihoods as part of a larger ESRC funded project entiled ‘Space, Markets and Employment in Agricultural Development’. He most recently has received funding from the EU supported PSPPD (Programme to Support Pro-Poor Policy Development) to examine how rural development is imagined and implemented by the South African state, by examining a very specific district in the Eastern Cape.


  • –present
    Senior Researcher: Institute of Poverty Land and Agrarian Studies , University of the Western Cape