Some 11m South Africans now survive on less than R28 a day – UN

South Africa remains one of the most unequal countries in the world, according to the global Human Development Index (HDI) in 2020.

Nestled between Venezuela and Palestine, South Africa’s uneasy socioeconomic standing is being degraded by declining standards of living, with the cycle of multidimensional poverty trapping the poorest 40% of the country.

Determined by average life expectancy, education, and income equality, the United Nations’ (UN) latest Human Development Report seeks to provide a detailed view of a world in flux.

Assessing 189 countries through a wide lens of socioeconomic indicators, the UN’s annual HDI analyses the quality of life against the backdrop of industrial advancement.

Wealthiest 10% of SA’s population holds more than half the nation’s income

South Africa remains the most unequal country in the world according to the Gini coefficient, which analyses the distribution of income among individuals and households. South Africa has the highest global score of 63.

Furthermore, the wealthiest 10% of South Africa’s population holds more than half the nation’s income, with the poorest 40% of the nation sharing just 7.2%.

“This level of income inequality is the largest deviation noted by the UN’s HDI. South Africa’s inequality in life expectancy and education also ranks as some of the highest deviations in the world.”

The study goes further to point out socioeconomic inequalities according to gender, finding that women, on average, earn 38% less than men and end up leaving school one year earlier, primarily due to teenage pregnancy.

Multidimensional poverty

While Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) reports that the average formal South African worker earns R22,500 per month, the HDI points to a growing number of citizens living below the international poverty line.

“The UN notes that 18.9% of the population – some 11 million South Africans – survive on less than $1.90, which converts to just R27.66, a day, or around R800 per month.”

It’s further estimated that nearly 4 million South Africans are in a state of multidimensional poverty, defined as poor health, malnutrition, a lack of clean water, inadequate access to healthcare services, and poor, if any, housing conditions.

The latter, reflected as a poor standard of living, contributes 47.4% to multidimensional poverty in South Africa.

As part of its report, the UN notes that socioeconomic consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic – which has led to more than 2 million job losses in South Africa alone – will likely intensify inequalities and cause the number of citizens languishing below the international poverty line to increase.

Countries at the top of the HDI include Norway, Ireland, Switzerland, Hong Kong, Iceland, Germany, and Sweden. States with the lowest HDI rankings include Niger, Central African Republic, Chad, South Sudan, Burundi, and Mali.


Presh JM Reporter

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