Researchers at the University of Cape Town's School of Economics have developed a tool to help South Africans understand inequality better – and where their own income falls on the spectrum.
Using your income and the number of people in your household, the tool plots a graph and shows you where you and those in your household fall in relation to other South Africans.
The University of Cape Town's Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit (SALDRU), based in the School of Economics, developed the income comparison tool to help South Africans explore "where they are located in the country's income distribution", the researchers said in a statement.
SALDRU’s director, Professor Murray Leibbrandt, said: "The tool was designed to help people understand the nature and extent of South Africa's inequality. It is designed to help people see themselves in South Africa's story.
"By making the story about the person who interacts with the tool, SALDRU hopes that every South African who engages with it will reflect on where they fit in the bigger picture and consider what role, if any, they may play in changing the status quo."
There is a tendency for South Africans to keep discussions about inequality at a comfortable distance from themselves and their daily lives, the statement added. "But this income comparison tool will challenge people’s perceptions about the society we live in."
Poverty declining, inequality increasing
South Africa is recognised as having extremely high rates of income inequality, with recent analysis by the World Bank naming South Africa as the world's most unequal country.
The World Bank's latest South Africa Economic Update argued that with a Gini coefficient of 0.63, South Africa's inequality had become worse since 1994, despite an improvement in poverty rates.
The Gini coefficient measures inequality. The higher it is, the more unequal the society.
"South Africa is known for having the highest income inequality in the world. This is talked about a lot, but the country doesn't appear to be any closer to finding a solution.
"If anything, because inequality is such a big part of people's lived reality every minute of every day, some of its most distinctive features appear to have been internalised and normalised in society," SALDRU said.
"Despite our familiarity with the data, plotting South Africa’s income inequality on a graph and seeing what the disparity actually looks like is shocking even for us.
"It’s quite devastating and challenging to be able to visualise the fact that 79% of the country’s population live in households where the per capita income is lower than the minimum wage of R3 500," Leibbrandt added.
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