South African census shows big disparities in wealth remain

Wed, Oct 31, 2012, 00:00

INCOMES IN South Africa have more than doubled in the last 10 years, but, 18 years after the end of apartheid, white households still take home six times more money than their black counterparts, the national census revealed yesterday.

South Africa’s third census since 1994 paints a picture of a country in which a growing black middle class has consolidated its place in society over the past 10 years; and of a government that has increased its delivery of basic services, albeit slowly.

Despite these gains, major problems remain when it comes to the provision of low-cost housing, basic services and education for the poor majority. The hoped for equitable spread of wealth between South Africa’s ethnic groups has also yet to materialise.

For instance, black households have recorded the fastest growth out of all ethnic group incomes over the past decade. Their income has increased from an average of R22,522 (€2,009) a year in 2001 to R60,613 (€5,407) – a growth rate of 169 per cent.

But, they still lag behind white, Indian and coloured (mixed-race) households in that order, when the averages are compared. Indeed, “white-headed households had the highest average household income at R365,134 (€32,583) per annum,” the report stated.

Overall, the average household income has more than doubled to R103,204 (€9,213) from R48,385 (€4,318) in 2001.

The disparity between black and white South Africans could also be seen in the unemployment figures, where nearly 50 per cent of adults in the former group were without a job in 2011, compared to only 10 per cent of the latter.

Upon receiving the census yesterday in Pretoria, President Jacob Zuma said “the progress from 1994 to now should be contextualised with the need for quicker service delivery and faster turnaround times”.

The need to speed things up was reflected in the figures that emerged on the number of people still living in informal settlements.

Despite building more than 1.4 million low-cost houses for South Africa’s impoverished majority, there are nearly two million people still living in shacks, according to Census 2011. This is an increase of more than 100,000 since 2001.

When it comes to access to basic services such as running water and electricity, the African National Congress government has made steady progress.

Nine out of 10 South Africans now have access to running water, and there has been a massive jump from 45 to 73 per cent in the percentage of people using electricity as a main source for cooking between 1996 and 2011.

The education figures were particularly grim, however, even though they showed an improvement on the corresponding 2001 statistics. Less than a third (28.4 per cent) of South Africans completed secondary education over the past decade compared to 20.4 per cent in 2001.

The percentage of people who had some form of secondary education also grew marginally, from 30.2 per cent in 2001 to 33.8 per cent last year. A further breakdown shows 8.6 per cent have not had any schooling at all, compared to 17.9 per cent 10 years ago.

The number of South Africans with a third-level qualification was 12.1 per cent, an increase from 9.1 per cent over 10 years ago.

In terms of population size, the number of people living in South Africa has grown by nearly seven million to 51.8 million. Nearly eight in 10 of those people are black and less than one in 10 white.

Almost one in three (or 29.6 per cent) of the population is aged between 0 and 4 years. As is the case across much of the continent, South Africa’s population is becoming increasingly urban.