UNU-WIDER is hiring a Research Associate in Pretoria, South Africa

Research Associate (PSA), Pretoria, South Africa

UNU-WIDER is hiring a Research Associate in Pretoria, South Africa. As Research Associate you would contribute to the data lab management and research for our Southern Africa – Towards Inclusive Economic Development (SA-TIED) programme which builds critical bridges between research and policy in South Africa.

About UN University (UNU)

The United Nations University (UNU) is an international community of scholars engaged in policy-oriented research, capacity development and dissemination of knowledge, furthering the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations. UNU’s mission is to contribute, through research and capacity building, to efforts to resolve the pressing global problems that are the concern of the United Nations and its Member States.

For the past four decades, United Nations University (UNU) has been a go-to think tank for impartial research on human survival, conflict prevention, sustainable development and welfare. With more than 400 researchers in 12 countries, UNU’s work spans the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, generating policy-relevant knowledge to effect positive global change. UNU maintains more than 200 collaborations with UN agencies and leading universities and research institutions across the globe.

United Nations University World Institute for Development Economics Research (UNU-WIDER)

UNU-WIDER is one of 14 research and training Institutes that comprise the think tanks in the UNU system.

UNU-WIDER is a leading international development economics think tank. The Institute provides economic analysis and policy advice with the aim of promoting sustainable and equitable development for all. The Institute began operations in 1985 in Helsinki, Finland, as the first research centre of the United Nations University. Today, it is a unique blend of think tank, research institute, and UN agency — providing a range of services from policy advice to governments, as well as freely available original research. More information on UNU-WIDER and its current work programme are available at

UNU-WIDER is implementing a large research, capacity development, and policy engagement programme in South Africa, called Southern Africa – Towards Inclusive Economic Development (SA-TIED) in close collaboration with the National Treasury of South Africa. Building on the successful first phase of this programme, phase II of SA-TIED will continue to bring together world class researchers with policymakers to combat socio-economic challenges in South Africa but also in the broader southern African region. A big focus of SA‐TIED relates to its engagements with the policy‐making community as a partner. A key aspect of the programme is to generate robust empirical evidence and use it as a basis to encourage networking and discussion amongst people involved in policy processes across the participating organisations and civil society to bridge the gap between research and policy‐making. The programme played an important part in making anonymised administrative tax data available for research purposes at a Secure Data Facility at the National Treasury (NT-SDF) and is a key asset in the programme. The availability of administrative tax data for research has enabled many new avenues of research and has provided new perspectives on the South African economy and has dramatically improved the quality and breadth of evidence used to inform policy. For more information on SA-TIED, please visit


Based at the premises of the National Treasury of South Africa in Pretoria, South Africa, the Research Associate conducts research on the tax data, writes academic articles, writes manuals on the tax data, facilitates researchers’ use of the tax data, assists with capacity development and oversees the lab operations at the NT-SDF.

The Research Associate’s responsibilities include the following:

1. Facilitate research on the data at the National Treasury – Secure Data Facility

  • Develop and implement a tracking document that lists all ongoing research projects such that output requests can be mapped effectively to approved research projects.
  • Facilitate the set-up of an efficient system in evaluating research proposals (e.g., implement a standard template that everyone needs to fill in).
  • Lead the collaboration to produce technical notes related to data used under the programme.
  • Support in evaluating research proposals and provide feedback to researchers using the tax data.
  • Produce research briefs, policy briefs, blogs, and background notes.
  • Ensure consistent use of the datasets within the programme.
  • Assist researchers in accessing the tax data.
  • Participate in data projects that involve the comparison of data from tax records with data from other sources.
  • Assist with obtaining new datasets for the NT-SDF under the guidance of the work stream leads.
  • Design a research closing-out template for the projects that have been completed to ensure efficient use of the server.
  • Engage with National Treasury IT when the data lab needs technical assistance and assist with putting in place a service level agreement between the data lab and National Treasury IT.
  • Assist with the procurement of new server equipment and provide non-technical oversight and coordination of the upcoming server revamp at the data lab.
  • Overseeing day-to-day lab operations, including but not limited to: lab bookings, research output management, the safety of data lab, output spot checks before the release and in all, ensuring that research projects are in line with the data lab’s data policy.
  • Oversee the non-disclosure agreement (NDA) and oath of secrecy processes and update the NDA to bind researchers to the data policy (once adopted), to indicate data work must be conducted at the data lab and access to the data is granted on a proposal basis.
  • Overseeing the agendas and taking meeting notes and follow up on action items.
  • Work alongside the data developers to work on the sign-off procedure of SARS data extractions.’
  • Interacting with SARS on data quality.

2. Facilitate capacity development

  • Assist the Research Fellow in identifying appropriate capacity development activities for the National Treasury, and other SA-TIED partners.
  • Liaise with providers to deliver capacity development activities.
  • Support the Research Fellow to arrange the capacity development activities in-person and online in collaboration with team based in Pretoria.

3. Overseeing the lab operations of the NT-SDF

  • Work with the team based in Pretoria to ensure the NT-SDF is in good working condition.
  • Ensure safe use of the tax data.
  • Liaise with Office NT Chief Data Analytics Office to conduct strategic engagement with other stakeholders on data administration.
  • Support the team to prepare the data request from SARS.
  • Supervise Data Scientists based at SARS.

4. Performs other duties as assigned by supervisor

Key performance indicators

  • Support researchers access to the NT-SDF.
  • Oversee and manage a well-run secure data facility.
  • Conduct quality research using NT-SDF (not a requirement, but highly encouraged).



  • Inclusion — take action to create an environment of dignity and respect for all, regardless of age, culture, disability, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, gender expression, geography, grade, language, nationality, racial identity, religion, sex, sex characteristics, sexual orientation, social origin or any other aspect of identity
  • Integrity — act ethically, demonstrating the standards of conduct of the United Nations and taking prompt action in case of witnessing unprofessional or unethical behaviour, or any other breach of UN standards
  • Humility — demonstrate self-awareness and willingness to learn from others
  • Humanity — act according to the purposes of the United Nations: peace, dignity and equality on a healthy planet


  • Connect and collaborate — build positive relationships with others to advance the work of the United Nations and work coherently as One UN
  • Analyse and plan — seek out and use data from a wide range of sources to understand problems, inform decision-making, propose evidence-based solutions and plan action
  • Deliver results with positive impact — hold oneself and others accountable for delivering results and making a positive difference to the people and causes that the United Nations serves
  • Learn and develop — pursue own learning and development and contribute to the learning and development of others
  • Adapt and innovate — demonstrate flexibility, agility and the ability to think and act in novel ways


Required Qualifications and Experience:

  • Advanced university degree (PhD degree or equivalent) in Economics, Statistics, Social Sciences, or a related field. 
  • A minimum of two (2) years of relevant work experience
  • Strong quantitative skills in econometrics
  • Advanced knowledge of statistical programmes to conduct research (Stata, R, Python or equivalent)
  • Previous experience with administrative or big data is an asset
  • Knowledge of tax and development issues is an asset.
  • A good track record of working papers and publications is advantageous
  • Excellent drafting skills
  • Excellent team player with strong interpersonal skills and ability to work in a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic environment with sensitivity and respect for diversity.

Language Requirements:

  • Fluency in English is required
  • Knowledge of another UN official working language is an asset.


The successful candidate will be employed under a national PSA contract. UNU offers an attractive compensation package including an annual gross salary of ZAR 1,071,347 commensurate with the experience and qualifications of the candidate. Benefits include 30 days annual leave and a health insurance scheme.

UNU is not liable for any taxes that may be levied on the remuneration you receive under this contract. Payment of any such taxes remains the sole responsibility of PSA holders.

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Duration of contract

The duration of the initial contract is 1 year. This is Personnel Service Agreement (PSA) contract with UNU, with the possibility for renewal subject to requirements and satisfactory work performance. The combined duration on a PSA contract with UNU may not exceed six (6) years. The mandatory age of retirement for PSA holders is 65 years.

Expected start date: As soon as possible

How to Apply:
To apply to UNU, you will not need an account. Instead, we ask that you:

  • Apply via the apply link;
  • fill out the UNU P11 Form (please avoid using similar forms provided by other United Nations organisations);
  • provide a motivation statement (in the P11 form); and
  • answer a few questions that are tailored to the position.

You may wish to refer to the UN Values and Behaviours Framework for more information.

Application Deadline:  11 March 2024


Evaluation of qualified candidates may include an assessment exercise which may be followed by a competency-based interview, background checks and references.

Special notice

The position is limited to persons who have (1) the South African nationality, or (2) the necessary residence, and work permit for South Africa. UNU does not sponsor a working visa for this position.

PSA holders do no hold international civil servant status nor are they considered a “staff member” as defined in the UN Staff Rules and Regulations.

UNU is committed to diversity and inclusion within its workforce, and encourages all candidates, irrespective of gender, nationality, religious and ethnic backgrounds, including persons living with disabilities to apply and become part of the organization. Applications from developing countries, and from women are strongly encouraged. Eligible internal applicants are also encouraged to apply.

UNU has a zero-tolerance policy on conduct that is incompatible with the aims and objectives of the United Nations and UNU, including sexual exploitation and abuse, sexual harassment, abuse of authority and discrimination.

If you have supervisory function you need to have awareness on gender related issues.

Information about UNU rosters

UNU reserves the right to select one or more candidates from this vacancy announcement. We may also retain applications and consider candidates applying to this post for other similar positions with UNU.

Apply Here

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