This is how little money the poorest in South Africa are living on each month

 ·28 Aug 2023

Statistics South Africa has published its updated national poverty lines for 2023.

Poverty lines are important tools that allow for the statistical reporting of poverty levels and patterns and the planning, monitoring, and evaluation of poverty reduction programmes and policies.

The primary purpose of the national poverty lines is to provide a tool for the statistical measurement of money-metric poverty. The lines contain both food and non-food components of household consumption expenditure.

StatsSA tracks three lines – the food poverty line, the lower-bound poverty line, and the upper-bound poverty line.

  • The food poverty line is now R760 per person per month (R25 a day), up from R663 previously (+14.6%). This refers to the amount of money that an individual needs to afford the minimum required daily energy intake. This is also commonly referred to as the “extreme” poverty line;

  • The lower-bound poverty line is now R1,058 per person per month (R35 a day), up from R945 previously (+12.0%). This refers to the food poverty line plus the average amount derived from non-food items of households whose total expenditure is equal to the food poverty line;

  • The upper-bound poverty line is now R1,558 per person per month (R52 a day), up from R1,417 previously (+10.0%). This refers to the food poverty line plus the average amount derived from non-food items of households whose food expenditure is equal to the food poverty line.

The below graph shows how the inflation-adjusted poverty lines have changed from 2006 to 2023.

While the updated national poverty lines help establish a government baseline, they do not accurately reflect the plight of many poor South Africans, who often end up substantially worse off as they provide for themselves and their family members.

According to the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice & Dignity group (PMBEJD), approximately 30.4 million people in South Africa live below the old upper-bound poverty line of R1,417.

The group estimates that 13.8 million people live below the food poverty line.

South Africa’s high levels of poverty are also reflected in the latest data on grant dependence in the country.

According to the statistics body, social grants remain a crucial safety net for many, especially in the poorer provinces.

Stats SA’s latest General Household Survey for 2022 revealed that, nationally, grants were the second most important source of income (50.2%) for households after salaries (59.7%) in 2022.

Despite being listed as second overall, grants were still the primary source of income for one quarter (23.5%) of all households in South Africa.

South Africa’s grants also saw an increase in 2023, with many ranging from below the food poverty line to above the upper-bound poverty line.

Minister of Finance Enoch Godongwana presented the changes in the 2023 National Budget in February.

The increases in social grants for 2023 were as follows:

  • The old age grant went up from R1,985 to R2,085
  • The old age grants for those over the age of 75 increased to R2,105
  • Grants for war veterans increased to R2,105 from R2,005
  • Disability grants went up to R2,085
  • The Foster care grant increased by 5.1% to R1,125
  • Care dependency grants rose to R2,085 from R1,985
  • Child support grants went up by 5.2% to R505
  • Grant-in-aid rose to R505 – up by 5.2%

Read: South Africa’s shocking dependence on grants

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