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More than 50% of SA’s population is living in poverty

Aug 22 2017 10:48
Lameez Omarjee

Pretoria - More than half of SA’s population is living in poverty, data from Statistics South Africa revealed.

According to the Poverty Trends Report for 2006 to 2015, 30.4 million people (55.5% of the population) is living in poverty. This is up from the 53.2% or 27.3 million people reported in 2011.

Statistician general Pali Lehohla said the statistics look at how South Africa has moved to reduce poverty. Over a period of time it was a movement almost parallel to the x-axis, a flat movement. “Meaning poverty depth or intensity was difficult to deal with,” he said.  

Much has been done to reduce head count poverty. Government has subsidised water, electricity and food. More schools have also been declared no-fee institutions, he said. 

The number of people living below the 2015 poverty line of R441 per person per month, or in extreme poverty, increased to 13.8 million in 2015, compared to the 11 million reported in 2011.

This is still lower than the number of people living in extreme poverty reported in 2009, which was at 16.7 million.

The Gini coefficient, which measures income inequality with 0 representing perfect equality and 1 representing perfect inequality, improved from 0.72 reported in 2006 to 0.68 in 2015. But black Africans still experience the highest income inequality with a Gini coefficient of 0.65 reported in 2015, up from 0.64 reported in 2006.

Income inequality among the white population declined from 0.56 reported in 2006 to 0.51 in 2015. The Gini coefficient of the coloured population declined from 0.60 in 2006 to 0.58 in 2015, while the Gini coefficient for Indians/Asians was 0.56 both in 2006 and 2015.  

Children the poorest

Children are most vulnerable to poverty. "Children leading poverty more than anyone else shows there is no future," said Lehohla. "If children are poor, they are less likely to go to school and even if in school, they will perform badly...  The majority of children are poor because they are in poor households," he said.

"The youth bear the burden of unemployment. They graduate from poverty as children into being unemployed as youth."

Females are more exposed to poverty than males, Lehohla highlighted. Black Africans, people living in rural areas, and people with little or no education are most vulnerable to poverty, Stats SA revealed.

Poverty is highest in Limpopo and the Eastern Cape, and lowest in the Western Cape and Gauteng. Lehohla said migration to the Western Cape and Gauteng can't be stopped, and will create poverty in urban areas. 

Speaking on the effects of unemployment, Lehohla said the likelihood of staying unemployed has increased 10%. "There is no end in sight in relation to the hardships." The combination of declining economic performance on the top end led to consequences on the poor who had to be fired, he explained. 

The key driver of poverty is unemployment. Addressing unemployment starts with education, said Lehohla. 

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