Making poverty research political Student "Wages Commissions " in Durban 1971-3
Over the course of the 1970s, social science measures of a family’s minimum
needs ceased being the limited concern of a few academics and started to become
instruments of liberation. Since Edward Batson’s extensive Social Survey of Cape Town
in 1942, South Africans with access to academic publications and reports by liberal
research bodies could find empirical data on the standards of living of the different ‘race
groups’ as measured against the Poverty Datum Line (PDL). However, PDL research
did little to effect real changes in the lives of South Africans until the mid-1970s.
Around the time of the 1973 strikes in Durban, the PDL was reincarnated as a wagesetting
device. By the end of the decade, multi-nationals signed onto agreements to pay
workers in South Africa above the PDL, while emerging trade unions made effective use
of this measure on behalf of the underpaid and exploited.