The Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit (Saldru) at the University of Cape Town has created an income comparison tool to show how the population’s income is spread out across South Africa. It’s a really nifty tool to see just where you stand in comparison to how other South Africans earn. You can try it out here.
The results are really telling, and show just how severe South Africa’s income inequality is. For example, someone earning an intern salary of R4,500 per month, living alone, is still earning more than 83% of South Africa’s population. This means that when you’re on the lowest rung of the corporate ladder, you’re already part of the 17% highest earners in the country.
Here’s how it works:
- Put in your household’s combined monthly income – you do this by adding together all the incomes from your household.
- You then say how big your household is, and remember that this includes dependents or individuals you’re funding.
- Guess where you place in terms of South Africa’s income rankings, among the poorest, around the middle, or among South Africa’s top earners.
- Look at your results, the closer you are to the top (closer to 100%) the closer you are to being among South Africa’s highest earners. For example, if you got 60%, it means that you earn more than 60% of the South African population and are thus part of the 40% highest earners in the country.
According to a report by the World Bank, more than half the population of South Africa lives in poverty, and another 27% lives in a state of transient poverty. Only 20% of the country is middle class, and 4% is considered “the elite.”
The floor for who “the elite” are may also surprise you: the economist Moeletsi Mbeki famously claimed that it is those making R50,000 per month or more.
Something Saldru possibly never intended, but ended up showing anyway, was the impact of black tax. For those who don’t know, black tax is the reality that people historically marginalised by apartheid still face, where an income-earner usually splits their income in order to help their immediate and sometimes extended, families. Whereas for white people who were economically privileged and thus do not tend to have as many dependents – and possibly multiple income earners in a household – the majority of black income earners have the additional concern of taking individuals deprived of educational and reliable job opportunities out of poverty. This means that their monthly income gets spread out among a much larger household.
If we go back to our intern’s salary of R4,500 per month and assume this time that they have to split this to send money home to help out parents and possibly provide their two siblings with school fees, we can assume the household is made up of 4 people. If we do this we see a clearer picture of the majority of South Africans. This time the results are dead-center, at 50%.
Featured image by Niko Knigge