28 September 2009
The number of South Africans living in poverty declined between 1999 and 2007, positioning the country well to meet its target of halving poverty by 2014, while the incomes of the poorest have increased from R783 to R1 041 per month in recent years, a new report finds.
Development Indicators 2009, released last week by The Presidency’s policy coordination and advisory service unit, also found that more than 13-million South Africans now receive social grants, compared to 7.87-million in 2004/05.
Economic growth, employment
The report, which provides information on the impact of government programmes, found that there was a significant decrease in the number of South Africans living in the lower categories of the Living Standards Measure (LSM -3), as well as an increase in the size of the middle bands (LSM 4-6).
“The improvement in people’s lives should be attributed to economic growth and expanding employment, as well as the government’s poverty alleviation initiatives, social assistance and support for better housing,” the report says.
Despite the reduction in poverty, the publication found that income inequality has remained the same or worsened in the country.
“We are improving people’s quality of life, but inequality is worsening,” Planning Minister Trevor Manuel said in Cape Town last week, adding that the government would have to focus on intensifying its programmes to take the country onto a higher development trajectory.
He noted that the distribution of social grants and the improvement of the labour market were not enough to dent income inequality, which the report says did not decrease even during the years of economic growth.
“When the percentage of richest and poorest quintiles is compared, the deep structural nature of poverty in the country is clear,” Manuel said. “This structural nature of poverty has a racial underpinning.”
Despite recent protests by citizens over alleged lack of service delivery, the report found that the government continued to make big improvements, with the number of subsidised houses continuing to increase, along with access to water, sanitation and electricity.
However, despite the reduction in poverty levels, the rate of eliminating poverty in the country remains slow.
“Although poverty has reduced over time … the rate of eliminating poverty is slow,” the report said, adding: “Over this period, there seems to have been significant shifts in the provincial distribution of poverty.”