School costs hit parents hard in South Africa

 ·17 Apr 2024

Headline inflation in South Africa has softened for March, but the price of education, particularly high school, have the largest increase since the start of the 2020s.

According to Stats SA, headline inflation dropped from 5.6% in February to 5.3% in March.

The statistics body said that the rate has held its ground between 5% and 6% since September 2023.

The monthly change in the consumer price index (CPI) was 0.8% in March – lower than the 1.0% increase in February.

The biggest increases

The categories with the highest annual price changes in March were miscellaneous goods & services (up 8.5%), education (up 6.3%), health (up 6.0%) and housing & utilities (up 5.9%).

Education fees are only surveyed once a year in March.

Overall education was 6.3% more expensive in 2024 compared to a year prior.

This exceeded the 5.7% increase in 2023 and the highest since 2020 when the rate was 6.4%.

High schools saw the largest significant increase (up 7.3%), followed by primary schools and tertiary institutions (both up by 5.9%).

Crèches and university boarding were also surveyed in March, increasing by 6.0% and 8.2%, respectively.

“The increase in miscellaneous goods & services was mainly driven by higher health insurance premiums, recorded by Stats SA in February. As reported in last month’s review, the average price of health insurance increased by 12.9% in 2024,” said Stats SA.

“The 6,0% annual rise in the health index was driven by increased prices of medical products and medical services.”

However, inflation for food and non-alcoholic beverages (NAB) slowed from 6.1% in February to 5.1% in March.

This is significantly down from the recent peak of 14.0% in March 2023 and the lowest annual increase since September 2020, when the rate was 3.8%.

Bread & cereals registered a softer annual print of 5.0% compared to February’s 6,1% – far lower than the recent high of 21.8% in January 2023.

Meat inflation also dropped in March due to lower beef and mutton prices.

The annual rate for meat in March was 0.8%, well below the recent peak of 11.4% in February 2023.

That said, the annual inflation for sugar, sweets & desserts was 17.8%, having remained above the 15.0% for half a year.

Products with the largest annual price increases include brown sugar (up 22.0%), white sugar (up 20.1%), chocolate slabs (up 17.9%) and chocolate bars (up 15.9%).

Other big price changes

Stats SA said that the inflation for alcohol & tobacco was due to an annual increase in excise taxes, increasing by a monthly 1.9% – the largest monthly rise since the same period last year. Prices increased by 4.5% overall in the year to March.

Housing rents were also surveyed in March and rose by 0.8%.

The transport jumped by 2.0% between February and March due to a monthly rise of 5.3% in fuel prices.

Read: Critical tax deadline fast approaching – a first for South Africa

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