25 years of democracy: Poverty on the rise, black Africans worst hit by inequality

Twenty-five years into our democratic dispensation, black Africans are worst affected by ongoing economic inequality in South Africa, Statistician General Risenga Maluleke said on Tuesday.

Poverty has also been on the rise in recent years, he said.

To understand why this is so, one has to start with unemployment and education levels, which are poverty's most significant contributing factors, according to statistics from the 2016 community survey, Maluleke said.

"Unemployment and education contribute about 63% towards poverty. Now, when you look at that, then you look at the unemployment among black Africans, particularly black African females. They are vulnerable to labour markets, followed by coloured females.

"Unemployment does not affect whites as much, as well as the Indian/Asian population," Maluleke told Fin24 shortly after his presentation. 

He was speaking at the 25 Years of Democracy Conference held at the University of Johannesburg (UJ) in Auckland Park on Tuesday. 

The conference, hosted by UJ, together with the Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflections (MISTRA), offered a platform for academics, as well as other stakeholders, to share ideas on challenges presented in the past 25 years, in a bid to help pave a way forward for South Africa. 

Maluleke told Fin24 that education levels tended to be higher among white and Indian/Asian people, and lower among black African and coloured people.

"So if these two [unemployment and education] are contributing to poverty, then certainly those are the reasons why black Africans, followed by coloureds, are poorest, and whites, as well as Indians/Asians, are not as poor," Maluleke said.

The Statistician-General further explained that poverty is measured in two forms: money metrics and through a multi-dimensional poverty index. On the former scale, it could be seen that poverty had been on the rise in South Africa after having declined until 2009. 

"We measure poverty into two forms. We compare with other countries on 1 dollar a day (money metric). Statistics showed that poverty was declining coming out of 2006 to 2009 at 36.6%, as of 2011 poverty is rising. 

"The second is using a multidimensional poverty index, in which we look at interventions at a school level, for example fee-free schools, feeding schemes et cetera," he explained. 

The conference will come to a close on Wednesday with closing remarks from the Minister in the Presidency, Jackson Mthembu.

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