What you’d need to earn to pull yourself out of poverty in South Africa

Stats SA has released its South African poverty trends report for 2017, showing the key differences between poor and ‘non-poor’ households in the country, and how these have changed between 2006 and 2015.

Adjusted for inflation, the upper boundary poverty line in South Africa has moved from R575 per person per month in 2006, to R1,138 per person per month in 2017.

The food poverty line – which is the bare minimum needed per person to meet basic food needs – has increased from R219 in 2006 to R531 in 2017.

According to Stats SA, approximately 30.4 million people were living below the upper-bound poverty line (55.5% of the population), while 13.8 million (25.2%) were living in extreme poverty below the food poverty line.


Though South Africa saw a marked decrease in people living in poverty between 2006 and 2011 – the numbers jolted upward between that period and 2015.

Levels of poverty differ significantly across provinces, with the Eastern Cape (72.9%), Limpopo (72.4%), and KwaZulu-Natal (68.1%) recording the highest levels of poverty in 2015, while the Western Cape (37.1%) and Gauteng (33.3%) had the lowest levels.

An individual’s educational level is closely related to poverty, Stats SA’s data showed – 79.2% of individuals with no formal education were poor, compared to only 8.4% of individuals who had a post-matric qualification in 2015.

As part of its presentation, Stats SA provided a graphic showing how poor households compared to ‘non-poor’ households in the country – highlighting income, expenditure, and access to basic services.

One of the biggest contrasts in poor and on-poor budgets, is the difference in spending on basic needs like food. In a poor household’s budget, food expenditure amounts to R9,487 (for a family of 5), taking up 30% of monthly spend.

In non-poor households, while more is spent – R15,831 for a family of three – this makes up only 10.5% of the budget.

The average ‘non-poor’ household in South Africa has a combined annual income of R199,267, or R16,600 per month. A poor household only has R46,624 per year, or R3,885 per month.


Read: South Africa has a tough fight to keep its title as Africa’s top economy

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