South Africans better off than they were in 1994 - report | Fin24

South Africans better off than they were in 1994 - report

Nov 08 2016 20:12
Mpho Raborife, News24

Johannesburg - South Africans should be more hopeful about the future because their lives have improved over the past 22 years, the Institute of Race Relations said on Tuesday.

It was important for South Africans not to lose sight of the gains the country had made, "lest we become too pessimistic and cynical about our future and fail to build on the solid foundations that have been laid over the past two decades", research analyst Jon Bonstock told reporters in Johannesburg.

He was speaking at the release of a report, titled Life in South Africa: Reasons for hope. Its findings include that the country’s Gross Domestic Product has increased 33% over the years.

The "real" GDP, which did not consider the inflation during the period, was around R1.6 trillion in 1994 compared to around R3tn in 2015.

"This report is about the things that have gone right in South Africa. It tries to introduce some perspective and show that South Africans have much to be hopeful for, despite current difficulties."

Bonstock said the decision to exclude inflation was intended to help researchers consider the economy’s impact on each citizen’s life. 

"If you take inflation into account, it is not going to be accurate, taking it out shows you what is really going on in people’s lives.

"People are much better off than where they were in 1994. This is encouraging," Bonstock said.

Middle class has grown significantly

In 1994, the average disposable income per head of households was R23 686, but had increased to R33 660 in 2015.

Employment among black South Africans had doubled between 1994 and 2015.

In 1994, 4.9 million black people were employed. This increased to 11.6 million by 2015.

There had been a significant increase in people living in formal housing structures over the past 22 years, from 5.7 million in 1996 to 13.4 million in 2016. The number of people in informal dwellings had also risen, but not as significantly, from 1.4 million to 2.1 million over the same period.

Access to piped water, flush or chemical lavatories, use of electricity for lighting, cooking and heating all increased, but at different levels, Bonstock said.

According to the Living Standards Measure (LSMs) 38.8% of South Africans had been living between categories 1 to 3, which Bonstock described as "on the margins of society".

By 2015, only 10% of South Africans were still within that category.

The middle class had grown significantly. The percentage of the population in LSM categories 4 to 7 increased from 44.9% in 2001, to 67% in 2015. Those in the highest category - LSM 8 and 10 - had increased from 16.3% of the population in 2001, to 25% in 2015.

Number of new HIV infections has halved

Levels of extreme poverty had declined across all racial groups. All racial groups had benefited from the country’s economic growth, not only black people.

The number of black children who passed matric had increased from 259 in 1955 to 369 903 in 2015.

The headcount of those enrolling at universities rose from 211 756 in 1985 to 807 663 in 2015.

In the health sector, the number of new HIV infections had decreased from 646 806 in 1999 to 321 497 in 2015. This was encouraging, Bonstock said.

"HIV has devastated our country. Thousands have died. Although the number of new HIV infections has halved, that doesn’t mean that the number of HIV infected people has decreased, but we have made substantial improvement," he said.

Bonstock said the number of murders committed per 100 000 people had fallen from 68 during the 1994/5 period, to 34 in 2015/16.

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