Inequality in South Africa persists because poor people migrate to wealthier parts of the country in search of opportunities. File Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)
Cape Town - Inequality in South Africa persists because poor people migrate to wealthier parts of the country in search of opportunities.

This is the view of economist Dawie Roodt on the reasons provinces such as the Western Cape and Gauteng are always cited in studies on inequality as the two most unequal provinces in the country.

“The Western Cape is a very interesting case. It is the second richest province after Gauteng and it also attracts the most immigrants from within the country, particularly the Eastern Cape. The more poor people come to the province in search of opportunities, the more inequality will increase and that is the irony,” said Roodt.

“The poor won’t go to Limpopo for instance, because it is poor, but going to a rich province improves their chances, while at the same time widening the inequality gap.”

Income inequality means that a few make much more money in a society than most others. South Africa’s income inequality is particularly uneven, with a few high earners getting huge incomes while the large poor majority’s income is dismally low.

According to the Statistics SA inequality trends report released last week: “Provinces with large rural populations had a larger share of chronically poor households and a high proportion of the transient poor and vulnerable households were located in the Western Cape.”

On average, females earned less than males across all educational levels. Females with no education and primary education earned roughly 55% of what males in the same groups earned.

Black African- and coloured-headed households were the only two groups classified as chronically poor, with black African-headed households having the lowest levels of access to the internet and the lowest access to medical aid coverage.

“South Africa’s labour market remains of primary importance in understanding contemporary inequality in the country. With an overall unemployment rate that ranges between 25% and 30% using the official (narrow) definition, any empirical investigation into economic inequality in South Africa would be incomplete without an analysis of the labour market,” the report said.

Statistician-General Risenga Maluleke said South Africa stood out as one of the most unequal countries in the world by most inequality measures.

“There is growing recognition that persistently high levels of inequality can have serious detrimental effects on a society and its economy. For all of these reasons, it becomes clear why reducing inequality is such a critical task from a policy perspective,” said Maluleke.

The impact of apartheid policies has left a legacy of unequal development across the South African landscape, manifesting in regional inequalities in terms of access to education, health care, and basic services (such as water, sanitation, refuse removal and electricity). Since democracy in 1994, the government has tried to eliminate these inequalities with varying degrees of success.

Overall, when examining progress at a national level there appears to be notable areas of success and improvement. Nevertheless, when examining this progress at lower disaggregations, the story becomes mixed as there still are clearly some groups and/or places that lag behind others in terms of access.


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Cape Argus