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Country analysis > South Africa Last update: 2020-11-27  

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An overview of poverty and inequality in South Africa - Working Paper prepared for DFID (SA)

1. Summary

South Africa is an upper-middle income country, but is a country of stark contrasts. The extreme inequality evident in South Africa means that one sees destitution, hunger and overcrowding side-by-side with affluence.
  • South Africa has a per capita GNP of USD3690 p.a. (in 1998 dollars); yet
  • About 15% of adults are illiterate [17];
  • 9,2% of children under 5 are malnourished [6];
  • Life expectancy has fallen from 62 years in 1990 to 48 in 1999 as a consequence of AIDS [17];
  • It is estimated that 13% of the population and 25% of adults in South Africa are HIV-positive ;
  • The infant mortality rate is 45 per 1000 live births;
  • The maternal mortality rate is 230 per 100 000 live births;
  • Of the 44 million people in the country in 2000[14], about 8 million were surviving on less than the international dollar a day poverty line and 18 million were living on less than 2 dollars per day2;
  • 37% of households survive on less than R1000 per month (in 2002 Rands) [14];
  • 60% of the poor get no social transfers [15];
  • Health expenditure is 7% of GNP, but less than half of this is public spending [17].

  1. This is based on the PPP conversion that the World Bank used prior to 2000. In 2000, the Bank recalculated the conversion from Rands to PPP dollars and revised the “dollar a day” amount from R92 to R55 per person p.m. (in 1993 Rands). If the 2000 PPP is used, the number of people below the USD1 level would be 3 million and the number of people below the USD2 level would be 10 million.
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