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Inequality in South Africa: The distribution of income, expenditure and earnings

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  • Fiona Tregenna
  • Mfanafuthi Tsela

Abstract

This article empirically analyses the state of inequality in South Africa. International comparisons show South Africa to be among the most unequal countries in the world. The levels of income inequality and earnings inequality are analysed with a range of measures and methods. The results quantify the extremely high level of inequality in South Africa. Earnings inequality appears to be falling in recent years, with relative losses in the upper-middle parts of the earnings distribution. Decomposing income inequality by factor source reveals the importance of earnings in accounting for overall income inequality. The article concludes by observing that, internationally, significant sustained decreases in inequality rarely come about without policies aimed at achieving that, and suggests that strong policy interventions would be needed to reduce inequality in South Africa to levels that are in the range typically found internationally.

Suggested Citation

  • Fiona Tregenna & Mfanafuthi Tsela, 2012. "Inequality in South Africa: The distribution of income, expenditure and earnings," Development Southern Africa, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 29(1), pages 35-61, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:deveza:v:29:y:2012:i:1:p:35-61
    DOI: 10.1080/0376835X.2012.645640
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    Cited by:

    1. Tregenna, Fiona, 2011. "Halving Poverty in South Africa: Growth and Distributional Aspects," WIDER Working Paper Series 060, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    2. Kwenda, Prudence & Benhura, Miracle, 2015. "A Detailed Decomposition Analysis of the Public-Private Sector Wage Gap in South Africa," IZA Discussion Papers 9271, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    3. Mveyange Anthony, 2015. "Night lights and regional income inequality in Africa," WIDER Working Paper Series 085, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    4. Miracle Ntuli & Prudence Kwenda, 2013. "Labour Unions and Wage Inequality Among African Men in South Africa," Working Papers 13159, University of Cape Town, Development Policy Research Unit.
    5. Porras, Laila, 2015. "Croissance, inégalités et pauvreté au sein des pays émergents : le cas des BRICS," Revue de la Régulation - Capitalisme, institutions, pouvoirs, Association Recherche et Régulation, vol. 18.
    6. Martin Wittenberg, 2017. "Measurement of earnings: Comparing South African tax and survey data," SALDRU Working Papers 212, Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit, University of Cape Town.

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