First, list your current professional title. Second, describe your background, experience, and research as it relates to Quality-of-life studies. Feel free to describe this in detail.
I am an associate professor at the School of Economics at the University of Johannesburg. I started my career in the offices of the South African Minister of Finance, as part of the Unit of Fiscal Analysis. Our team actively contributed to the budgeting process and were often reminded to keep the main goal of the South African Constitution, to improve the quality of life of all people, at the centre of our decision-making. Little did I know at the time that this “goal” would ultimately play a vital part in my future, as the main driving force behind my research.
In 2014 I completed my PhD in Economics under the supervision of a renowned development economist, Prof Fiona Tregenna. I was truly fortunate to have had Fiona as one of my first mentors, to help shape me into the passionate researcher I am today. The focus of my PhD was on the development of robust measures of multidimensional quality of life, through the construction and validation of different types of composite indices. I used these indices to measure the quality of life of different demographic groups across South Africa. The purpose was to identify specific cohorts who are in need, as well as those dimensions of their quality of life that need to be prioritised, in order to improve their quality of life. Since completing my PhD, I have continued in this line of research, developing appropriate and robust measures of wellbeing, giving special attention to the role of subjective wellbeing.
My current research projects relate to:
· The measurement of quality of life (with the exclusion of income measures) of different groups, among others refugees and migrants. The purpose of this is to influence policy outcomes, by redirecting the focus to the “ends” and not the “means” in order to improve quality of life.
· Investigating the driving factors of inequality on quality of life. Residing in South Africa, a country that is known for widespread inequalities, provides me with the best possible position to shed light on this.
· Determining whether African nations are experiencing convergence in social wellbeing. This is a vitally important study, since African nations have plateaued on the growth achieved thus far in the Sustainable Development Goals.
· Big data and individual happiness. Currently, I am testing the viability of data extracted from social media, as a determinant of people’s happiness.
Apart from my academic role, I also have the privilege of being a co-editor for economics for the Journal of Happiness Studies. This provides me with an opportunity to help increase the platform and reader base, as regards economics and wellbeing, happiness or quality of life. Furthermore, I am an advisor to South Africa’s Gauteng Provincial Government pertaining to the measurement and analysis of quality of life. This provides me with the opportunity to see how our research makes a difference in the lives of people.
Why quality of life studies?
As a development economist in Africa, I have a yearning to do research that contributes to the improvement of the quality of life of the poor. This yearning became more urgent, while visiting my sister and observing the dire circumstances of the poor. My sister is a medical doctor who works with HIV infected children, many of them orphaned. Those images will stay with me, as a reminder of the challenges we face to improve the quality of life of the most vulnerable.
What are some of the areas of quality-of-life studies you feel are lacking attention? Any advice for future QoL researchers?
One of the major shortcomings in the field of quality of life studies, is the lack of reliable data. I am of the opinion that the fourth industrial revolution provides us with new opportunities to collect data, however these opportunities are, as yet, not fully exploited. Data concerning Africa, a continent in desperate need of research, is very limited. However,internet penetration across the continent has increased significantly over the past years; furthermore, the majority of adults have access to mobile phones. This creates the opportunity to acquire more representative, timeous data, which can improve the quality and impact of our research. I think future quality of life researchers should explore the use of new technologies to collect data and investigate the opportunities to make use of big data, available from social media.
How long have you been a member of ISQOLS? Why did you choose to be a member of ISQOLS? How has your involvement in ISQOLS impacted your career/research/advancement in your knowledge of QoL studies?
I joined ISQOLS in 2010 and have attended most of the conferences thus far. ISQOLS has had a major impact on my life, by introducing me to colleagues from across the world. These colleagues are often from disciplines, other than economics, who share my interests and therefore help me understand the problems from an interdisciplinary perspective. This provides me with the opportunity to hear different perspectives on wellbeing and methodologies used to analyse data, all of which enrich my own learning experience. ISQOLS also gave me the opportunity to meet and interact with renowned academia, often only known to me through citing their work in my own research. One of the best outcomes of ISQOLS was meeting Stephanie Rossouw, my co-author. We do not merely work together on research projects, but are also kindred spirits. She is always positive and inspires me to reach greater heights.
Feel free to include any other important comments or things you would like to share with the ISQOLS community.
A passion for quality of life research and the improvement of the wellbeing of people, has led to us establishing a research unit at the University of Johannesburg. This research unit has the mandate to contribute to the study and understanding of the nexus between Wellbeing and Development. The research unit’s members include masters and PhD students, as well as academia. They have keen minds and are hardworking, with a desire to do research, which can contribute to the improvement of the quality of life of people. I am very proud that two of my PhD candidates will be presenting their research at the ISQOLS conference, to be held in Granada. I believe they will form part of the next generation of ISQOLS members, those who not only believe in a better world for all, but actually make it happen!
Prof. Talita Greyling
Associate Professor: School of Economics
Office: University of Johannesburg, South Africa
The International Society for Quality-of-Life Studies (ISQOLS)