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JOHANNESBURG - Unisa's Bureau for Market Research (BMR) data shows a skewed distribution of South African household assets and liabilities.

BMR’s Professor Carel van Aardt said the 2016 report showed large-scale inequalities with respect to asset and liability values and per capita asset and liability values between provinces, age groups, highest educational qualification, employment status, source of income, income group and credit status.

“The most glaring example of asset and liability inequalities in South Africa is the fact that the bottom 20% of income earners have only 2.6% of asset values while the top 20% of earners have 73.4% of asset values,” said Van Aardt.

According to the report, total assets across all income groups stood at R11. 798 trillion in 2016, with the equivalent for debt being at R1. 936 trillion, bringing total net wealth to R9.862 trillion.

The top three provinces are Gauteng, with more than 41%; Western Cape with 28%; and KwaZulu-Natal, with close to 12 percent of the net wealth.

About R1.7 trillion of total non-financial assets, R3.1 trillion of financial assets and R0.8 trillion of total household debt are found in Gauteng.

Other provinces with a strong contribution to household assets and liabilities in South Africa are KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape respectively.

The Northern Cape, Free State and the North West's total net wealth contribution is only 7.8%, which is less than each of the highest net wealth holding provinces.

Van Aardt said the identified inequalities were expected to persist owing to a large number of factors that include quality of education received by many people in South Africa.

Absa’s principal of research, Peter Worthington, said the numbers produced by the BMR illustrated the huge scale of wealth inequality in South Africa. “Wealth inequality has grown globally, but South Africa's case is quite extreme. The top 20% of the population (by income levels) has 27 times the net wealth of the bottom 20% of earners,” he said.