Revisiting poverty, human development and inequality in democratic South Africa

Type Journal Article - Indian Journal of Human Development
Title Revisiting poverty, human development and inequality in democratic South Africa
Volume 15
Issue 2
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2021
Page numbers 183-199
There are many questions related to poverty in South Africa that remain unsatisfactorily answered. Given the poor performance of the South African economy, including declining per capita incomes and increasing unemployment, since 2010 or so, it is important to examine poverty dynamics in the recent years. Many recent studies in this regard have relied on 2015 data, and do not examine all the three interrelated aspects of wellbeing viz. poverty, human development and inequality. In this context, this paper uses all the five waves of the National Income Dynamics Study and employs different poverty and inequality measurement techniques to investigate poverty dynamics, human development and inequality during the post-apartheid period in South Africa. The estimates suggest that although poverty was declining prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the African/Black population group is the most affected by poverty. The phenomenon of feminisation of poverty is also verified based on the evidence of increasingly more women in poverty than men. The proportion of population experiencing multiple deprivations, measured by the Multidimensional Poverty Index, have not changed in the post-apartheid period. Similarly, human development has not improved during this period. South African society continues to be one of the most unequal societies in the world. The paper argues that the inability to sufficiently reduce poverty, unemployment and inequality results from the weak performance of the South African economy. In the same vein, it is the structure of the South African economy that has kept the levels of human development low and income inequality high.

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