SA youth ‘better off than parents’

15 June 2006

As South Africa celebrates Youth Day on Friday, 30 years after the student uprising of 16 June 1976, new research reveals that the country’s young people believe they are better off than their parents were – and that their children will be even better off than they are now.

According to Kuper Research and Futurefact, more than half of young people asked believe their standard of living is much or somewhat higher than that of their parents. Only 9% feel they are much worse off. In the low living standards measure (LSM) group 3 and 4 only 39% consider themselves to be better off, but this rises to 51% for LSM 5 and 6, 58% for LSM 7 and 8 and 59% for LSM 9 and 10.

The day Hector Pieterson died
“I saw a child fall down. Under a shower of bullets I rushed forward and went for the picture.” These are the words of Sam Nzima, whose famous photo of a dying Hector Pieterson encapsulated the anger and tragedy of 16 June 1976.

Looking at the future, almost two-thirds of parents think that when their children are their age they will have a better standard of living. Only 9% believe they will be worse off.

This indicates that parents consider themselves to be providing their children with a better standard of living than they themselves had. This is true even in the lower LSM groups, with 64% in LSM 3 and 4 agreeing with this.

People’s perceptions of their class varied across the living standards groups. Two-thirds in LSM 3 and 4 consider themselves to be working class. In LSM 5 and 6 there is an almost equal split between those who believe they are working class (42%) and those who see themselves as middle class (41%). Fifty percent of those in LSM 9 and 10 reckon they are middle class while 32% think they are upper-middle class. Only 5% classify themselves as upper class.

There’s also evidence of strong social mobility between generations, with younger people saying that while their parents were working class, they themselves have become middle class.

But how do people assess class? According to the survey, the top four determinants of class, standing or prestige among South Africans are:

  • The area where you live (41%).
  • Your position at work (39%).
  • The car you drive (35%).
  • Your home and how it is furnished (29%).

There are differences among the various LSM groups. Where children go to school is important in LSM 3 and 4, while car and home do it for LSM 5 and 6.

Youngsters aged 16 to 19 believe both the car you drive and your accent, or the way you speak, are important. For all groups, a person’s role in the struggle against apartheid is least important. Clearly, South African society is now more driven by economics than politics.

Jos Kuper of Kuper Research says the survey confirms that class mobility is a reality, as for most people life has changed for the better. Young people in particular feel that they can aspire to move up in the world, that opportunity beckons.

Yvonne Johnston, CEO of the International Marketing Council, says that the research shows a buoyant and confident people who rightly expect that life is constantly improving for them. It also underlines what other studies have found, namely that the rising black middle class is now driving the consumer side of the economy.

“For today’s youth, it shows that democracy has brought better prospects and that hopes for a brighter future are at their highest levels,” she says.

Source: International Marketing Council

Using SAinfo material Want to use this article in your publication or on your website?
See: Using SAinfo material