mobile menu mobile search

Shocking levels of poverty in South Africa revealed

Shocking levels of poverty in South Africa revealed

South Africa faces the ‘triple challenge’ of poverty, inequality and unemployment, according to a new report published by global aid and development charity, Oxfam.

The research titled: Is South Africa Operating in a Safe and Just Space? says that the future of South Africa depends on the country’s ability to end social deprivation and manage environmental stress, enabling its people to live in a space where it is both safe and just.

The report says that an estimated 816,000 ‘green’ jobs could be created in the country by 2025 across the areas of natural resource management (biodiversity, water and land), energy generation, energy efficiency and pollution management.

Oxfam noted that South Africa has one of the highest official unemployment rates in the world (25%) and is one of the most unequal countries, with a Gini coefficient of 0.69.

The wealthiest 4% of households receive 32% of total income while 66% of households receive only 21% of all income.

Over half of South Africans live below the national poverty line and more than 10% live in extreme poverty, on less than $1.25 (R15.85) per day.

Read: Can you live on R25 a day?

Social foundation

The ‘social foundation’ developed for South Africa consists of energy, water, sanitation,
housing, education, health care, voice, jobs, income, household goods, food security and

According to Oxfam, a significant proportion of people are living below a decent social foundation as defined by the selected domains and thresholds. “This is particularly true in the areas of jobs, safety and income, the latter two of which have seen deteriorations since 1994.”

The report notes that the South African government has an ambitious target of 5.4% growth in gross domestic product (GDP) and 11 million new jobs by 2030.

“However, the achievement of that GDP growth will ring hollow if significant numbers of people are left below the social foundation. Growth for its own sake is insufficient – it must be good-quality growth that works for the poorest people first and foremost and significantly reduces inequalities,” the report’s author Megan Cole said.

An environmental ceiling

Severe environmental stresses are widespread as fresh water and food supplies are under pressure, air quality is in many places damaging health and carbon emissions breach safe levels and add to the pressure of climate change.

The poorest citizens are often those least likely to contribute to such environmental stresses as, for example, 24% of the population have no access to electricity, Oxfam said.

However, they are most likely to feel the negative impacts, as food prices mean that
23% cannot afford an adequate diet.

The report finds that South Africa has crossed its safe environmental boundaries for climate change, freshwater use, biodiversity loss and marine harvesting and is within 10% of crossing the boundaries for arable land use, phosphorous loading and air pollution.

A way forward

Failings of governance at all levels must be addressed if sustainable development is to be
effectively delivered.

The Oxfam commissioned report says that the government is investing over 20% of its annual budget on education, but with poor outcomes.

“This investment needs to be targeted to ensure that skills are developed that ultimately result in reduced inequality, job creation and poverty alleviation.”

“As global and local environmental changes accelerate, it will be critical to have the best possible science, technology, data and monitoring capabilities in order to adapt and make the right decisions. For this reason, investing in technological and scientific education should be a priority,” the report said.

More on South Africa

South Africa’s biggest wind farms vs the world

How many whites have left South Africa in the last 5 years

How much it costs to live in South Africa’s biggest cities

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...
Join the Conversation
  • pravdaitalia

    this governmunt we have at the moment have promoted a mentality of entitlement.
    most of these poor people are just waiting for the criminals in charge to drive around with a truck every day with food parcels and new cars and cash to spend on expensive clothes.
    if the energy and money wasted is rerouted to helping the communities, without detouring millions into unwanted spending, we would have been living a utopia for the last ten years or so.

    • CharlesAsh

      But of course the white apartheid government didn’t do this when they doled out premium free goods and services to the white population…no sir…entitlement is the sole preserve of black people. White people…entitlement…never. Yeah right!

      • pravdaitalia

        did you actually read what i said.
        instead of doing free handouts, and still not provide running water and sanitation, is a futile exercise.
        sure the old republic handed out jobs and and a better life for the few, but my mother lived in a poor white area for 20 years before 1994, i never saw a truck driving around handing out T-shirts and KFC hoping for votes.
        instead they made sure that those poor white areas had proper public transport, water, electricity. sanitation, and even a hospital just 10km away.
        you might know it now as the Steven Biko hospital.

  • David Robert Lewis

    When SANGOCO dismantled its Green Jobs desk, it put the nail in the coffin of development, so much for promises.

  • CharlieTango

    “the future of South Africa depends on the country’s ability to end social deprivation” – yes and this will get a kick-start by JZ and his cronies paying back the money they stole.

    • CharlesAsh

      When are the white people going to pay back the money you guys stole? I see the Queen still has our diamond…and you guys are still sitting on the land…when is that gonna be paid back?

      • CharlieTango

        Happy to give it all back if you can guarantee that it, and everything else stolen by previous “settlers”, goes to the rightful owners – the Khoisan.
        History 101.

  • Curly

    Why do some people create something out of nothing . Create wealth by doing something useful instead of bemoaning their situation?

  • Curly

    Why do some people create something out of nothing . Create wealth by doing something useful instead of bemoaning their situation?

  • Andre Stols

    Yet they still vote ANC

  • feeso

    I used to live on 16 rand a day

  • cybermoggy


  • Wurnman

    Atleast our government is taken care of.

  • Valecia Supra

    While the President and government officials suck the country dry, through corruption, extortion and greed
    The NEVER think of the poor and homeless

  • hongkongpom

    The 70 BILLION Rand that Zuma and his cronies have stolen from the SA tax payer over the years could have gone a LONG way to better the SA people.
    Shame on the ANC!!!

    • disqus_YXczy1K8mI

      its a LOT more than that dude….
      Cant you make them pay some back soon?

  • hongkongpom


  • hongkongpom

    The truth…

    • CharlesAsh

      You should be ashamed of this rather than flouting it around. It more symbolises the fact that the only people that work…for the most part…are the legacy beneficiaries of apartheid as is systemically manifest and apparent to all but the most deluded and self-righteous bigots like yourself.

  • disqus_YXczy1K8mI

    step one: rid us of the ANC

  • CharlesAsh

    The Mybroadband and comments section need to follow suit with the IOL and News24 comments sections…the amount of eye-watering racism is really depressing. I find it absolutely laughable that people think that South Africa flashed into existence in 1994 and there is zero history or legacy systemic injustices weighing the system down and propagating the inequality so rife in our society. But no…let’s blame it ALL…100%…on Zuma. I’m no Zuma or ANC fan, but FFS…get real….get a clue…and grow a brain. Your white priviledge is paid for…by the inter-generational pain and misery of these very people…let that sink in.

Join our newest FREE BusinessTech newsletter today!