Advertisement

Social Indicators Research

, Volume 113, Issue 3, pp 915–940 | Cite as

South African Quality of Life Trends Over Three Decades, 1980–2010

  • Valerie MøllerEmail author
Article

Abstract

The South African Quality of Life Trends study has tracked the subjective well-being of South Africans in ten waves from 1983 to 2010. The paper presents the SAQoL trendline of life satisfaction, happiness and perceptions of life getting better or worse against the backdrop of the transition from apartheid to democracy. Subjective well-being peaked in the month following the first open elections in April 1994 when black and white South Africans were equally satisfied and happy at levels found in other democratic societies. But post-election euphoria was short-lived and levels of well-being dropped the following year and racial inequalities in evaluations of life re-emerged. The tenth and latest wave in the study was conducted a few months after South Africa’s successful hosting of the Soccer World Cup. In 2010, the proportions of all South Africans expressing satisfaction, happiness and optimism was among the highest since the coming of democracy—just over half stated they were satisfied, close on two-thirds were happy, and half felt life was getting better. Nonetheless, while the standard of living has increased for a minority of formerly disadvantaged South Africans and a small black middle class has emerged, there are still huge disparities in both material and subjective well-being. In 1997 and 2010, South Africans were asked what would make them happier in future. In 2010, the majority of citizens still hoped for basic necessities, income and employment, to enhance their quality of life.

Keywords

Trends in subjective well-being Life satisfaction Happiness Life getting better South Africa 

Notes

Acknowledgments

This paper is dedicated to Lawrence Schlemmer (1936–2011) who had the foresight to initiate the SAQoL trends study and South Africa’s social indicators movement in the late 1970s. He vetted the items included in the tenth wave and would have endorsed South Africa’s optimism for the future. A generous grant from the National Research Foundation (NRF) funded the 2010 wave of the SAQoL trends study. However, findings, opinions and conclusions in this paper are mine and should not be attributed to the National Research Foundation or any of my colleagues.

References

  1. Andrews, F. M., & Withey, S. B. (1976). Social indicators of well-being. New York: Plenum Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Davids, N., Nhlanhla, Z., & Louw, P. (2012). Get ready for more rage. The Times, Johannesburg, June 14, p. 2.Google Scholar
  3. Dickow, H. (2012). Religion and attitudes towards life in South Africa: Pentecostals, Charismatics and Reborns. Baden–Baden: Nomos.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Dickow, H., & Møller, V. (2002). South Africa’s ‘rainbow people’, national pride and optimism: a trend study. Social Indicators Research, 59(2), 175–202.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Diener, E., Lucas, R. E., Schimmack, U., & Helliwell, J. F. (2009). Well-being for public policy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Easterlin, R. A. (2010). Well-being, front and center: A note on the Sarkozy report. Population and Development Review, 36(1), 119–124.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Hanf, Th., Weiland, H. & Vierdag, G in collaboration with Schlemmer, L., Hampel, R. & Krupp, B. (1981). South Africa, the prospects of peaceful change. London: Rex Collings.Google Scholar
  8. Leibbrandt, M., Woolard, I., Finn, A. & Argent, J. (2010) Trends in South African income distribution and poverty since the fall of apartheid. OECD Social, Employment and Migration Working Papers No. 101. Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Paris.Google Scholar
  9. Michalos, A. C. (2003). Observations on key national performance indicators. Working paper. Prince George: University of Northern British Columbia.Google Scholar
  10. Michalos, A. C. (2011). What did Stiglitz, Sen and Fitoussi get right and what did they get wrong? Social Indicators Research, 102(1), 117–129.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Møller, V. (1989). ‘Can’t get no satisfaction’: Quality of life in the 1980s. Indicator South Africa, 7(1), 43–46.Google Scholar
  12. Møller, V. (1992). A place in the sun: quality of life in South Africa. Indicator South Africa, 9(4), 101–108.Google Scholar
  13. Møller, V. (1994). Post-election euphoria. Indicator South Africa, 12(1), 27–32.Google Scholar
  14. Møller, V. (1995). Waiting for utopia: Quality of life in the 1990s. Indicator South Africa, 13(1), 47–54.Google Scholar
  15. Møller, V. (1998). Quality of life in South Africa: Post-apartheid trends. Social Indicators Research, 43(1–2), 27–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Møller, V. (1999). South African quality of life trends in the late 1990s: Major divides in perceptions. Society in Transition, 30(2), 93–105.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Møller, V. (2001). Happiness trends under democracy: Where will the new South African set-level come to rest? Journal of Happiness Studies, 2(1), 33–53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Møller, V. (2004). Quality of life in a divided society. In W. Glatzer, S. von Below, & M. Stoffregen (Eds.), Challenges for quality of life in the contemporary world. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.Google Scholar
  19. Møller, V. (2007a). Researching quality of life in a developing country: Lessons from the South African case. In I. Gough & J. A. McGregor (Eds.), Wellbeing in developing countries: From theory to research. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Møller, V. (2007b). Satisfied and dissatisfied South Africans: Results from the General Household Survey in international comparison. Social Indicators Research, 81(2), 389–415.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Møller, V., & Hanf, Th. (2007). South Africa’s new democrats: A 2002 profile of democracy in the making. Letters from Byblos No. 21, International Centre for Human Sciences, Byblos, Lebanon.Google Scholar
  22. Møller, V., & Devey, R. (2003). Trends in living conditions and satisfaction among poorer older South Africans: Objective and subjective indicators of quality of life in the October Household Survey. Development Southern Africa, 20(4), 457–476.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Møller, V., & Dickow, H. (2001) Five years into democracy: Elite and rank-and-file perspectives on South African quality of life and the “rainbow nation”. Les Cahiers de l’IFAS No. 1. French Institute of South Africa, Newtown, Johannesburg.Google Scholar
  24. Møller, V., & Dickow, H. (2002). The role of quality of life surveys in managing change in democratic transitions: the South African case. Social Indicators Research, 58(1–3), 267–292.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Møller, V., Dickow, H., & Harris, M. (1999). South Africa’s “rainbow people”, national pride, and happiness. Social Indicators Research, 47(3), 245–280.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Møller, V., & Hanf, Th. (1995). Learning to vote: Voter education in the 1994 South African elections. Durban: Indicator South Africa Press.Google Scholar
  27. Møller, V., & Schlemmer, L. (1983). Quality of life in South Africa: Towards an instrument for the assessment of quality of life and basic needs. Social Indicators Research, 12, 225–279.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Møller, V., & Schlemmer, L. (1989). South African quality of life: A research note. Social Indicators Research, 21(3), 279–291.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Noll, H-.H. (2011). The Stiglitz-Sen-Fituoussi-Report: Old wine in new skins? Views from a social indicators perspective. Social Indicators Research, 102(1), 111–116.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Sagner, A. (2000). Ageing and social policy in South Africa: Historical perspectives with particular reference to the Eastern Cape. Journal of Southern African Studies, 26(3), 523–553.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Schlemmer, L., & Møller, V. (1997). The shape of South African society and its challenges. Social Indicators Research, 41(1–3), 15–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR). (1986). Race Relations Survey 1985. South Africa: Johannesburg.Google Scholar
  33. South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR). (2011). South African Survey 2010/2011. South Africa: Johannesburg.Google Scholar
  34. Statistics South Africa. (2010). Stats in brief. South Africa: Pretoria.Google Scholar
  35. Stiglitz, J. E., Sen, A., & Fitoussi, J.-P. (2009). Report by the commission on the measurement of economic performance and social progress. Paris. www.stiglitz-sen-fitoussi.fr.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Social and Economic ResearchRhodes UniversityGrahamstownSouth Africa

Personalised recommendations