Data Scientist (NPSA)
  • Pretoria, Gauteng
  • United Nations University
Job Description

Job description

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 African – 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.


Based at the premises of the South African Revenue Services (SARS) in Pretoria, South Africa, the Data Scientists will prepare the tax data extractions and assist in strengthening the cooperation between UNU-WIDER, SARS and National Treasury.

The Data Scientists’ responsibilities include the following:

Prepare the data extractions

  • Write scripts to extract the administrative tax data, anonymize the data, perform quality assurance on the data, write extraction reports
  • Perform basic consistency checks and set up sustainable methods to verify the similarity between successive extractions of the tax data for the National Treasury
  • Assist substantively with related documentation and processes to ensure the timely delivery of data extractions to the National Treasury
  • Work with the team in Pretoria to upload the data extraction to the NT-SDF server

2. Provide substantive support to data related queries

  • Attend to any data queries raised by SA-TIED stakeholders regarding the data, seek (within SARS) answers to data anomalies
  • Investigate what data is collected by SARS, how it is captured, what variables it includes and whether it could be transferred to NT
  • Investigate new datasets that can be extracted or merged with the SARS data

3. Prepare high-quality documentation on the data and documentation related to data extractions

  • Support with the preparation of data requests at the National Treasury
  • Update the data plan and recommend changes to ensure timely delivery of extractions
  • Support SARS to document their datasets and their systems, to produce metadata for the various datasets
  • Create documentation that tracks changes in tax forms over time

4. Support work to identify tax non-compliance and revenue opportunities

  • Assist with PITMOD, VATMOD, CITMOD models at SARS
  • Assist with data analysis at SARS

5. Performs other duties as assigned by supervisor

Key performance indicators

  • Timely data extractions transferred from SARS to the NT-SDF
  • Produce quality documentation on the data and related processes
  • Quality and timely assistance provided on data queries
  • Support work to identify tax non-compliance



  • 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 (Master’s degree or equivalent) in Data Science, Computer Science or a related field.
  • Candidates enrolled in a Master’s degree with two (2) years of relevant work experience will also be considered.
  • Excellent data skills
  • Previous experience with administrative or big data and database management is an asset
  • Advanced knowledge of SQL (or equivalent) required
  • Experience with programmes such as Python, R, SAS (or equivalent) is an asset
  • Ability to work independently with little supervision
  • 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 731,724, 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.

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:
12 March 2023


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.

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.

Scam warning

UNU does not charge any application, processing, training, interviewing, testing or other fee in connection with the application or recruitment process. Should you receive a solicitation for the payment of a fee, please disregard it. Furthermore, please note that emblems, logos, names and addresses are easily copied and reproduced. Therefore, you are advised to apply particular care when submitting personal information on the web.

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