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These 3 graphs show how South Africa’s wealth distribution has changed since apartheid

These 3 graphs show how South Africa’s wealth distribution has changed since apartheid

The World Wealth and Income Database has updated South Africa’s profile, providing a clearer picture of the country’s wealth and income inequality between 1960 and 2015.

The online data sets use national accounts, survey data, fiscal data and wealth rankings, and were created by economists Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez and a team of more than 100 researchers from 70 countries, in an effort to illustrate the widening gap between the rich and the poor in large economies.

The new inequality data showed that top income shares have increased in nearly all countries over the last 60 years in both developing and developed nations alike.

However, South Africa was revealed as one of the countries with one of the worst wealth distribution rates, with the share of wealth held by the top 1% of earners doubling since the late seventies – from about 10% then, to almost 20% today.


Top 1% of earners hold 19% of total wealth

This graph represents how much South Africa’s top 1% of earners contributed to the total annual income earned in their respective years.

The graph shows that South Africa’s richest people have increasingly held a bigger and bigger portion of total wealth since the dawn of democracy in the country.


Top 10% of earners hold 65% of total wealth

This graph represents how much South Africa’s top 10% of earners contributed to the total annual income earned in their respective years.

As with the graph above, it shows a clear trend of the top 10% of South African earners increasingly hold a majority of the country’s wealth. In this case, it shows that 10% of South Africa’s population holds 65% of the country’s wealth.



The average annual income in South Africa is around R122,000 

The final graph shows the average salary in the country, adjusted to 2015 prices.


BusinessTech's Staff Writer is directly plugged into the South African Internet backbone, and spits out press releases and other news as they receive it. They are believed to be cl...
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  • koos

    JA NO WELL FINE – 3 graphs of meaningless info,

    Last is the only comparative and does not show any meaningful deviation over term!!

    If you earn R 1 mil per annum and only need to spend R500 000 on living graciously of course you will have money to invest that will grow in value over time!!

    If you spend every cent you earn for a living towards your survival the of course you will be in the poverty trap

    Please guys – economics is not rocket science – get a perspective here instead of some unadulterated claptrap!!

  • NosySnoopy

    I don’t know what these graphs are supposed to tell me. Perhaps it is just me. Then I also can’t really see the impact or change after ’94. If there is something that I am missing wrt the ’94 change, it might be the huge amount of tenderpreneurs that came about.

    • Deal_with__it

      possibly that is the point.

  • Bradley Streak

    Basically it looks like 1975-1985 were the golden years for South Africans earning wise?

    • Joe Black

      Its very nearly on the same level now…

      • George

        Problem is in 1980 you could purchase a Mercedes benz 280e car for about R 40000. Today a E300 and e200d costs about R 800 000. So puts in perspective the money that was made during that 10 years.

        • SkepticZA

          They did say “adjusted to 2015 prices”.

        • Joe Black

          The article states its adjusted for current prices.

  • News Reader

    my guess is that one can see how the sanctions reduced everyone’s income from the 1980s up to 1994. I would also guess that one can expect to see something similar with sanctions impacting Zimbabwe.

  • Nictron

    Is the “The average annual income in South Africa” graph inflation adjusted over the period? If not, then that is quite an onerous error as 60 K in the 1960’s had way more purchasing power compared to today.

    I also find it strange that the peak apartheid years had better wealth distribution and ties into a video I watched recently called the real story on apartheid which highlighted the impact of created policy due to fear of communism and the ANC’s alignment with the communist party blocks (In those days the biggest murderers of Christian people were communist blocks). Forced economic sanctions and accelerated democracy actually increased inequality in South Africa.

    The other reason there is accelerated inequality is that due to sanctions, businesses fled the country and assets were bought at deflated value by the incumbents. Christo Wiese mentioned this in an interview with Bruce Whitfield recently. He stated that he could not believe that established business were being sold for cents on the rand due to fear of sanctions and apartheid, he was just to happy to take those valuable assets and businesses off their hands, now Christo Wiese and Whitey Basson has a massive empire into Africa.

    Post 1994 BEE policies had a big impact on the growth of inequality for the black elites. Not all undeserved but it gave those BEE individuals and their associated advisors (many being white) an economic advantage compared to white privilege in the Apartheid years. A good example is Patrice Motsepe who worked his ass off but was surrounded by mining experts of the apartheid era.

    The unfortunate thing is that the solution to the above will require an intervention equal to the pre 1992 negotiations to resolve the inequality. Unlike apartheid nationalism I think land and money are so much more difficult to give over compared to giving the country over to a constitutional democracy.

    May we be guided in the right direction for the future through an almighty higher power influencing sound individuals.

    • Joe Black

      The article states that it is adjusted.

  • Ace of Spades

    The unmatriculated ANC can only steal and not create any wealth according to these graphs!

  • AndrewWheelerDealer

    If anything, this goes to show that the social grant system (17m people) off a 5m people tax base is not working to increase the country’s wealth. Its time to cut back on hand-outs and increase jobs! Less tax = more jobs.
    Time for some tax breaks Mr Gordhan?

  • Gillian Findlay

    The last graph is incorrect. Ref. SARB Quarterly Bulletins which publish per capita income. This fell during the dying stages of apartheid – from about 1981 to 1993 – but rose significantly thereafter as SA was integrated into the global economy. After a setback in 2009 (recession), it resumed its upward trend.
    Also, the commentary confuses wealth and income. It looks like the graphs show the % of income that the to 1% and top 10% of income earners account for. That can be quite different to the wealth distribution in the country – which is certainly also very skewed.

    • Winston

      The last graph seems to be in line with what you claim or are you upset because of the peaks displayed 1970 to 1980, alongside the fact that R135K had more buying power in 1980 than now.

      • Gillian Findlay

        The last graph shows that per capita GDP and income continued to fall until 2000, which they didn’t do. They bottomed in 1993 and have risen with an open and more inclusive economy, not to mention a rising middle class. I’m not upset about anything – I’m merely pointing out historical fact and referencing my source. The figures are shown in real terms, meaning that the impact of inflation has been removed.

    • Agreed.

      • The masked soup bone.

        Hi Fred,
        It’s a “fait-accompli” that the PP’s office has been captured and is now part of the Zupta machinery…
        This is just the beginning, our “shower-head” has a perfect example of how to create a failed state right across the Limpopo in uncle Bob’s bailiwick.
        After full state capture milk the public trough till its bankrupt and owes every Tom Dick and Harry all over the world and defaults on payments.
        Then go after the remaining “monopoly capital” (read white capital), once that is destroyed insist on majority shareholding in remaining businesses and then all mines and minerals.
        The Gupta’s took 15 years to amass more money than it took the Rupert’s 2 x GENERATIONS of honest to accumulate….
        If you capture the criminal justice system crime pays, in spades.

  • Sarel Lotz

    What is the source of this data – has it been reviewed?

  • Paul ZA

    Amazing how the average income declined in the 1990’s and still not reaching previous highs. The average income of top 1% and 10% would have been useful.

  • Yebo Gogo

    At least 90 % of all ultra luxury vehicles which I see being driven daily, are driven by blacks. The more expensive the vehicle, the more likely it is to be driven by a black. I also see blacks purchasing properties for many millions – and most need no financial assistance to do so. Just an observation…….

  • 500 of 7 billion people own almost half the money in the world… These stats aren’t so bad

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