Post-final analysis

The staging of the World Cup in South Africa was a tribute to that country’s transformation since Apartheid in the 1990s. However, poverty persists. Some 54% of South Africans are poor, based on a national definition of poverty of living on $4 a day. And poverty and inequality still reflect race, as our graph shows. While widespread access to services such as housing, water and electricity has improved substantially, the link between race and poverty remains remarkably strong by international standards, as the income of black South Africans continues to lag behind whites and Asians in the country.

Moreover, inequality within racial groups and especially the black African community is rising too. For South Africa generally, one of the more robust measures of inequality called the Gini coefficient rose from .66 to .70 between 1993 and 2008, indicating more inequality. But the measure increased even more sharply–from .54 to .62–in the African community itself. This changing poverty profile will influence how South Africa tackles inequality. As a recent report for the OECD notes, “Instead of targeting action at people on grounds of race, programmes could be more effective if they focus on inequality within social groups.”

See www.oecd.org/southafrica and www.oecd.org/statistics/factblog

Leibbrandt, Murray, and Ingrid Woolard, Arden Finn and Jonathan Argent (2010), “Trends in South African Income Distribution and Poverty since the Fall of Apartheid”, OECD Social, Employment and Migration Working Papers No 101, Paris.


©OECD Observer N° 280 July 2010




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