1963-2013 - 50 years of Research for Social Change

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Back | Programme Area: Special Events (2000 - 2009)

Hans Singer: Gentle Giant of Development

Date: 18 May 2006

  • Time:
  • Location: ILO Headquarters, Geneva, Switzerland


United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) and the International Institute for Labour Studies co-organized a memorial lecture for Hans Singer, that was given by Sir Richard Jolly, Honorary Professor at the Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex.

The German-born Hans Singer was trained by Schumpeter at Bonn, before gravitating to Cambridge where he trained under Keynes and produced his early surveys on unemployment. In 1947, Singer moved on to the United Nations, with which he would be associated for many years. There are few UN development agencies to which Singer did not contribute during his career. He was the main crafter of the practical guidelines for implementation of the United Nations Development Decade in the 1960s, for example, which focused on reducing world poverty. He was director of UNIDO, associate director of the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD), an economist in the Economic Commission for Africa, author of a key document on children and economic development for UNICEF, and a main advisor to the World Employment Programme of the ILO.

He is regarded as one of the founders of development economics, for the the "Prebisch-Singer" thesis, which states that the terms of trade tend to move over time against the interests of producers of primary commodities. Although this hypothesis is now generally accepted, the practical and political implications have always been controversial because it implies that it is the structure of markets which is responsible for inequality in the world system. Hans Singer was one of the primary figures of heterodox economics - schools of economic thought which do not conform to the mainstream paradigm of neoclassical economics.

Singer died on 26 February 2006 at the age of 95.

The lecture, “Hans Singer: Gentle Giant of Development”, will be on Thursday, 18 May 2006 at 4 p.m. Room II, R3-South, ILO Headquarters, Geneva, Switzerland.

There will be interpretation in English, French and Spanish and the event is open to the public.