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Trends in South African Income Distribution and Poverty since the Fall of Apartheid

  • Murray Leibbrandt
  • Ingrid Woolard
  • Arden Finn
  • Jonathan Argent

This report presents a detailed analysis of changes in both poverty and inequality since the fall of Apartheid, and the potential drivers of such developments. Use is made of national survey data from 1993, 2000 and 2008. These data show that South Africa’s high aggregate level of income inequality increased between 1993 and 2008. The same is true of inequality within each of South Africa’s four major racial groups. Income poverty has fallen slightly in the aggregate but it persists at acute levels for the African and Coloured racial groups. Poverty in urban areas has increased. There have been continual improvements in non-monetary well-being (for example, access to piped water, electricity and formal housing) over the entire post-Apartheid period up to 2008. From a policy point of view it is important to flag the fact that intra-African inequality and poverty trends increasingly dominate aggregate inequality and poverty in South Africa. Race-based redistribution may become less effective over time relative to policies addressing increasing inequality within each racial group and especially within the African group. Rising inequality within the labourmarket – due both to rising unemployment and rising earnings inequality – lies behind rising levels of aggregate inequality. These labour market trends have prevented the labour market from playing a positive role in poverty alleviation. Social assistance grants (mainly the child support grant, the disability grant and the old-age pension) alter the levels of inequality only marginally but have been crucial in reducing poverty among the poorest households. There are still a large number of families that are ineligible for grants because of the lack of appropriate documents. This suggests that there is an important role for the Department of Home Affairs in easing the process of vital registration. Ce rapport présente une analyse détaillée de l’évolution de la pauvreté et des inégalités depuis la fin de l’Apartheid et des facteurs susceptibles de l’expliquer. Les comparaisons ont été effectuées sur la base des dernières micro-données comparables sur les ménages de 1993, 2000 et 2008. Ces données montrent que le niveau global des inégalités de revenu de l’Afrique du Sud a continué d’augmenter entre 1993 et 2008. Cette même réalité des inégalités se retrouvent également dans chacun des quatre groupes ethniques d’Afrique du Sud. La pauvreté a légèrement chuté dans sa globalité, mais persiste gravement parmi les groupes ethniques africains et interraciaux. La pauvreté en zone urbaine a augmenté. L’amélioration du bien-être non monétaire (accès à l’eau courante, à l’électricité, à un logement formel etc.) s’est poursuivie jusqu’en 2008. D’un point de vue de politique publique, il est important de signaler que les inégalités et la pauvreté au sein de la population africaine ont et auront de plus en plus un poids prépondérant dans les inégalités et la pauvreté globales du pays. L’augmentation des inégalités au sein du marché du travail – due à la fois à la hausse du chômage et à l’augmentation des inégalités de salaires –, provient de l’augmentation du niveau global des inégalités. Ces tendances ont empêché le marché du travail de jouer son rôle positif en termes de réduction de la pauvreté. Les prestations d’aide sociale (essentiellement l’allocation pour enfant à charge et les pensions d’invalidité et de vieillesse) n’ont qu’une incidence marginale sur les inégalités et la pauvreté. Toutefois, ces transferts réduisent réellement l’écart de pauvreté, en particulier parmi les ménages les plus pauvres. Un grand nombre de familles qui pourraient prétendre aux allocations familiales ne font pas valoir leurs droits parce qu’elles ne disposent pas des pièces justificatives requises. Par conséquent, le ministère des Affaires intérieures (Department of Home Affairs) a un rôle important à jouer en ce sens qu’il peut faciliter le processus d’enregistrement à l’état civil pour que tous les enfants puissent accéder aux prestations d’aide sociale auxquelles ils ont droit.

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Paper provided by OECD Publishing in its series OECD Social, Employment and Migration Working Papers with number 101.

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Date of creation: 28 May 2010
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:oec:elsaab:101-en
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