Two thirds of South African Households Are Poor

Statistics South Africa released it’s annual report titled “Selected development indicators” yesterday, 3 May 2011. The report provides important data on government performance on its programmes. One of the most important descriptors is an attempt to measure the extent of poverty in South Africa. The report defines the poor as households with a monthly expenditure of R 2500-00 of below. This measure shows that two-thirds of South African’s households are poor.
Based on the data available, the calculations for each province was undertaken, which shows variances across the provinces. These are represented in the table below:

IndicatorsTotal Number of HouseholdsNumber of households classified as poor using household monthly expenditure of below R2500-00 as the cut-off% of households with monthly expenditure below R 2500-00
Western Cape158173246.3
Gauteng3826197751.7
South Africa14756978866.3
Free State90761667.9
North West100670970.5
Northern Cape32723170.6
Mpuma-langa105075371.7
KwaZulu-Natal2802206573.7
Eastern Cape1820143078.6
Limpopo1437127588.7


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The data shows the urban-rural split for poverty:

  • Urbanised provinces, such as the Western Cape (46.3%)  and Gauteng (51.7%), have a lower incidence of poverty compared to other provinces;
  • Provinces with the highest incidence of poverty are Limpopo (88.6%), Eastern Cape (78.6%) and KwaZulu-Natal (77.3%).

This estimate of poverty it must be remembered is based on households, not individuals (which is the more commonly used measure in South Africa). Comparisons between poverty rates by households and by individuals are difficult to make, as they measure two different things. Yet, the finding that two-thirds of households survive on less that R 2 500-00, shows how commonplace poverty is South Africa, and the scale of the problem that we need to address.
The percentage of households surviving under R 2 500-00 in each province is shown in the chart below. Mouse over to view the data:

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