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Towards a democratic definition of poverty

Gemma Wright, Michael Noble, Wiseman Magasela

2008

SARPN acknowledges the HSRC Press as the source of this information: www.hsrcpress.ac.za
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Introduction

The aim of this report is to contribute to the theoretical debate on the conceptualisation and definition of poverty in South Africa by considering the results of a national survey of the views of South Africans about the necessities in life. 'Necessities', as conceptualised in studies with similar methodological approaches to those adopted here, are activities, possessions and services that are required in order to enjoy an acceptable standard of living within current South African society. This issue can be located within the context of international debates about poverty and social exclusion. The analysis undertaken in this report is based on questions in a module on 'socially perceived necessities' that formed part of the South African Social Attitudes Survey (SASAS) 2005. The SASAS questions about necessities can also be set in the context of a broader piece of research that is currently underway in South Africa, called the Indicators of Poverty and Social Exclusion (IPSE) project, which considers poverty and social exclusion in terms of socially perceived necessities.

The report begins by locating the study of socially perceived necessities in its academic context as part of the poverty and social exclusion debate. The IPSE qualitative analysis that preceded the SASAS module is also briefly described. The views of South Africans about necessities are then presented. This is followed by a section that explores how the responses of different groups compare, looking at responses by sex, population group, age, area type and subjective income poverty levels. The report concludes with some recommendations about how these findings could be used to inform the definition and measurement of poverty in South Africa in the future.

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