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Is South Africa really the most unequal country in the world?

South Africa Flag / stockgraphic


According to the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), South Africa is the most unequal country in the world in terms of its vast socioeconomic disparity. The commission released a report on Thursday which points to a failing Affirmative Action policy perpetuating inequality.

Radical Economic Transformation (RET) is the socio-political scheme aimed at uplifting the South African masses, in recognising the economic damage done under apartheid and redressing the challenges faced as a result of racial oppression.

SAHRC and the South African data

According to the SAHRC, South Africa is the most unequal country in the world. Simplified findings contained within the group’s report revealed 64% of black South Africans are living in poverty, compared to 41% of coloured people, 6% of Indian people and 1% of white people.

The organisation maintains that economic inequality manifests along racial lines, as proven by the data recorded in the 2017/2018 report.

The report also quotes Stats SA, who have listed those worst affected by poverty, as black African females, under the age of 17, mostly uneducated and living in rural areas such as Limpopo or the Eastern Cape.

According to statistic gathered and released by the SAHRC:

  • Black South Africans account for 80.7% of the country’s total population, and according to SAHRC statistics a total of 28 870 336 are living in poverty.
  • White South Africans account for 8.1% of the country’s total population, and according to SAHRC statistics a total of 45 158 are living in poverty.

Varying degrees of poverty

Questions are being raised regarding the validity of the SAHRC report, and the methods undertaken to arrive at certain figures for different population groups.

Poverty lines are varying and categorised into three major subsections, determined by total monthly income.

Poverty lines fall under three categories

  • Food poverty line value: R531 per month
  • Lower-bound poverty line value: R758 per month
  • Upper-bound poverty line value: R1,138 per month

As defined by Stats SA, the lower line includes less basic living costs, while the upper line includes more.

The reality is that while the poverty line needs to be drawn somewhere, this method has been described as flawed, identifying that somebody earning R10 above the upper-bound poverty line is in some way less affected by economic inequality.

The SAHRC maintain that RET, land reform and educational subsidies needs to be relooked and adjusted to empower more black South Africans. They also implore the private sector to be more inclusive of emerging black entrepreneurs, urging the government to redouble efforts regarding the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) program.




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