Poverty Level of South African Indians Decreases

Current statistics put people of Indian origin at par with the white community in South Africa.


The level of poverty among Indian-origin people in South Africa has consistently decreased over the past two decades, from almost 21 per cent to 6 per cent, according to Statistics South Africa. This makes the South African-Indian community, which consists of about 1.4 million people, close the gap with the white population, who had special privileges during the apartheid era and now have poverty rate of just one per cent.

As per the statistics released on August 22, coloured (mixed race) and majority black Africans are much behind, with 41 and 61 per cent, respectively.

The report, called the ‘Poverty Trends in South Africa’,  shows that despite general decline in poverty between 2006 and 2011, the overall poverty level in the country rose in 2015.

The report was released by Statistician-General Pali Lehohla.

The Cause

“Three out of five blacks are poor. Poor whites are (almost) non-existent. Indians moved…,” Lehohla said, according to PTI. “We could see this in the numbers when we talked about education. (Indians) caught up with whites in education, poverty dropped and education increased. Unlike the other population groups, the proportion of poor Indians consistently decreased between 2006 and 2015, reporting a decrease of 71.8 per cent. It is worthwhile to note that the decrease between 2011 and 2015 was less pronounced than the decrease experienced between 2006 and 2011. Nevertheless, Indians appear to have made strong gains in the war on poverty.”

The report elaborates this point. The first indentured labourers who arrived in South Africa in 1860 were subjected to restrictive apartheid laws. They placed huge emphasis on education, pooling resources from their meagre wages to build their own schools and send their children to universities.

This was continued by future generations, which, over 167 years, resulted in poverty levels getting decreased. The report added that from 20.9 per cent poverty among the 1.4 million citizens of Indian origin in 2006, the figures dropped to 5.9 per cent in the latest survey, which measured poverty not only in terms of income and expenditure, but also in terms of assets, housing, access to services, living circumstances, and health.

The Goals Set

The goals set by South Africa in its National Development Plan to eliminate poverty by 2030 are unlikely to be met. “When you look at economic growth, you can see that our target is 5.4% per year, but that the growth is not going in that direction,” Lehohla said, Business Day reported. He pointed out how the country has seen two quarters of negative growth — which is a technical recession.

“We do know that unemployment is very high and we have seen that in our quarterly labour force survey,” he said, pointing out unemployment as the key driver of poverty. “The poverty situation in South Africa is never going to be won when you have all these things. When you have education, you resolve both problems.”

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