Sigfried RJ Eisenmeier and Rocco Zizzamia win 2018 MPhil prizes

23 August, 2018

Congratulations to Sigfried RJ Eisenmeier and Rocco Zizzamia, who have won the 2018 prizes for their performance in the MPhil in Development Studies.

Sigfried RJ Eisenmeier of Somerville College won the Eugene Havas Memorial Prize for Best Overall Performance.

Rocco Zizzamia of St Anne’s College won the Papiya Ghosh Thesis Prize.

In his MPhil thesis, Sigfried analysed the labour conditions of Uber drivers in the specific political-economic context of Mexico City.

His research shows that Uber’s impact is a contradictory one. Some dimensions of the drivers' labour conditions are affected positively, such as the drivers' flexibility and safety. Others, however, are negatively affected, including the drivers' social security and their ability to build unions. Furthermore, the study highlights that Uber’s effect on the drivers is crucially shaped by the political-economic context of Mexico City.

Sigfried is currently authoring a report on the impact of on-demand ridesharing in the global South for the Pathways for Prosperity Commission on Technology and Inclusive Development at the Blavatnik School of Government of the University of Oxford. Thereafter, Sigfried is looking forward to gaining further professional experience in the area of international development, social protection and urban transportation in Mexico.

Rocco's thesis explores the effects that volatility in the South African labour market has on individual well-being, specifically focusing on those (paradoxical) cases in which disadvantaged workers turn down or quit wage jobs.

Rocco's research focuses on understanding what these cases reveal about the hidden ‘costs’ to wage employment in South Africa. He does this by combining longitudinal quantitative data with an in-depth qualitative case study of a black township on the outskirts of Cape Town. He finds that the disincentives to employment are considerable, and include high transportation costs (time and money), low wages, as well as a host of social and psychological burdens which come with low-skill employment.

A key conclusion is that workers who can afford to (in the sense that they have alternative livelihood options) may in fact turn down or quit wage work as a welfare maximising choice. This finding prompts a closer interrogation of the prevailing orthodoxy that sees employment creation as the main solution to poverty among the non-employed. 

His thesis has been published as a working paper by the Southern African Labour and Development Research Unit (SALDRU) at the University of Cape Town. Read it here.

Rocco is now working as a Research Officer at SALDRU, where he will be contributing towards the newly established African Centre for Excellence in Inequality Research. Between October and December he will be based at the German Institute of Global and Area Studies (GIGA) in Hamburg, where he will be working on a joint project between GIGA and SALDRU. In October 2019 he is hoping to return to ODID for his DPhil.

Find out more about the MPhil in Development Studies.