21 Oct 1996


21 October 1996


This week is Poverty Week. This Bulletin examines the extent and nature
of poverty in South Africa and highlights the policies that the ANC is
pursuing in Government to fight poverty in our country.

What is poverty?

The poverty line was defined in 1995 as an urban household (two adults
and three children) with a monthly income of less than R840. In 1993, the
poverty line for a rural household (two adults and three children) was
defined as a monthly income of less than R740.

How many people are in poverty in South Africa?

  • In 1995, the Centre for Development and Enterprise estimated that over
    three million households (about 39 per cent) were living in poverty
  • Almost one in three people do not have enough to eat
  • In 1995, about two-thirds of all black children were living in poverty.

Where is poverty most acute?

  • About 75 per cent of South Africa`s poor live in rural areas - especially
    in the former homelands and TBVC states
  • 24 per cent of South Africa`s poor live in the Eastern Cape
  • 21 per cent of South Africa`s poor live in KwaZulu/Natal
  • 18 per cent of South Africa`s poor live in the Northern Province
  • In 1995, about a third of all black people living in metropolitan areas
    were in poverty
  • In rural areas, 63 per cent of women and 57 per cent of men are living
    in poverty.

Who is living in poverty?

  • nearly 95 per cent of South Africa`s poor are black
  • five per cent are coloured
  • less than one per cent are Asian or white

What is the main cause of poverty in South Africa?

The primary cause of poverty is lack of income, and the main cause of
a lack of income is the lack of paid work. More than 70 per cent of South
Africa`s poor working-age adults are unemployed. Unemployment is therefore
the core cause of poverty in South Africa, and it has a clear race dimension.
Unemployment among black South Africans is 38 per cent; among coloureds,
it is 21 per cent; among Indians, 11 per cent; and among whites, four per

  • black South Africans have nearly twice the unemployment rate of coloureds
  • black South Africans have more than three times the unemployment rate
    of Indians
  • black South Africans have almost ten times the unemployment rate of

How is the Government fighting poverty?

The Government is fighting poverty on many fronts, including employment
creation, to take the poor out of unemployment; health, to improve the
health of the poor; and education, to give the poor a better chance at
improving their position.

The Government is fighting poverty through job creation policies

  • The Government has already created, or helped create, more than a quarter
    of a million jobs since the 1994 elections
  • under the Macro-Economic Strategy, more than a million new jobs will
    be created by the year 2000
  • after the year 2000, the Government expects 400,000 new jobs a year
    to be created.

The Government is fighting poverty through affirmative action

As unemployment and poverty are both overwhelmingly problems for black
South Africans, affirmative action policies are ensuring that black job
applicants get a better chance of competing against white and coloured
applicants for the work that is available. Affirmative action creates more
equal conditions in the job market, allowing all South Africans to compete
on an equal basis.

The Government is fighting poverty through health policies

As well as attacking the root causes of poverty, the Government is also
dealing with the damage that poverty causes to the health of the poor,
particularly among children. Since 1994, the Government has:

  • guaranteed free health care for all children up to the age of six
  • introduced school feeding programmes to provide basic nutrition to
    millions of school children
  • guaranteed free health care to pregnant women
  • undertaken immunisation programmes against polio and tuberculosis
  • restructured health services to enable universal and free access to
    primary care for the poor, especially in rural areas, which were previously
    overlooked in the provision of health services.

The Government is fighting poverty through education policies

For South Africa to eliminate poverty, it must ensure that the poor
are given the opportunities to help themselves. Education is a key plank
of the strategy, to provide all South Africans with the skills and training
they need to compete for work and enjoy a higher standard of living than
was enjoyed by their parents and grandparents. The Government is therefore:

  • renovating thousands of existing schools
  • building thousands of new classrooms
  • increasing attendance rates in secondary and tertiary institutions
  • increasing access to all universities for previously disadvantaged
    racial groups.

The Government is fighting poverty through meeting basic needs

The most basic of all needs is clean water. The Government has launched
a major programme to supply portable water to the 12 million people who
do not have adequate access.