Publish Date: 25 Aug 2017

Poverty Trends in South Africa: An examination of absolute poverty between 2006 & 2015

The Poverty Trends report present trends in poverty and inequality between 2006 and 2011. It provides a profile poverty at both a household and individual level. This report also examines the expenditure profile of poor and non-poor households with specific attention given to the differences in food expenditure between these two groups. Stats SA employed an internationally recognised approach – the cost-of-basic-needs approach – to produce three poverty lines, namely the food poverty line (FPL), the lower-bound poverty line (LBPL), and the upper-bound poverty line (UBPL). These lines capture different degrees of poverty and allow the country to measure and monitor poverty at different levels.

The report reveals that Limpopo and Eastern Cape have consistently been the two provinces with the highest levels of poverty between 2006 and 2015, while Mpumalanga has been the only province to witness a reduction in the incidence of household poverty across the four data points.

Key findings at National level

The proportion of the population living in poverty declined from 66,6% (31,6 million persons) in 2006 to 53,2% (27,3 million) in 2011, but increased to 55,5% (30,4 million) in 2015. The number of persons living in extreme poverty (i.e. persons living below the 2015 Food Poverty Line of R441 per person per month) in South Africa increased by 2,8 million, from 11 million in 2011 to 13,8 million in 2015. However, this is lower than in 2009 when persons living in extreme poverty were 16,7 million, this is according to the Poverty Trends in South Africa: An examination of absolute poverty between 2006 and 2015 report released by Statistics South Africa today.

The report shows that the most vulnerable to poverty in our society are children (aged 17 or younger), females, Black Africans, people living in rural areas, those residing in Eastern Cape and Limpopo, and persons with little or no education.

The income per capita Gini coefficient (income inequality) has declined from 0,72% in 2006 to 0,68% in 2015; however, the are notable variations amongst various population groups. Black Africans have the highest income inequality with a Gini coefficient of 0,65 in 2015, increasing from 0,64 in 2006. Income inequality amongst whites declined from 0,56 in 2006 to 0,51 in 2015. The Gini coefficient amongst Coloureds declined from 0,60 in 2006 to 0,58 in 2015. Despite having experienced declines in income inequality in 2009 (0,53) and 2011 (0,50), the Gini coefficient for Indian/Asians was 0,56 for 2006 and 2015.


Key findings for the Eastern Cape:


  • Eastern Cape and Limpopo have remained among the poorest provinces since 2001. However, the report shows a notable 17,5 percentage point drop in multidimensional poverty in the Eastern Cape since 2001. Eastern Cape remained the poorest province in 2016, with 12,7% of its households classified as multidimensionally poor. Limpopo, being the second poorest province, had 11,5% multidimensionally poor households in 2016.
  • The report highlights that black African females, children (17 years and younger), people from rural areas, those living in the Eastern Cape and Limpopo, and those with no education are the main victims in the ongoing struggle against poverty.
  • Eastern Cape had the highest percentage (95,4%) of older poor persons receiving an old-age grant when compared to the other provinces. Although the percentage is high, there is not too much of a difference between the older poor persons and the province's coverage for its overall older population.
  • Eastern Cape (42,8%) and Northern Cape (40,1%) had the highest percentage of poor households with children receiving child support grants compared to other provinces.  
  • In the Eastern Cape, the poverty headcount was 76,6% in 2006; 77,4% in 2009; 69,0% in 2011; and 72,9% in 2015; while in the Free State, the headcount changed from 62,0% in 2006 to 68,1% in 2009, then declined to 52,4% in 2011 and increased slightly to 54,9% in 2015.
  • In terms of ranking provinces according to their poverty gaps (from highest to lowest), Free State, Western Cape and Gauteng had the lowest poverty gap values over the four data points, ranking 7th, 8th and 9th, respectively, while the provinces with the highest poverty gaps were Eastern Cape, Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal.
  • The provinces with the highest household poverty gaps were Limpopo, Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal.







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