Social Indicators Research

, Volume 41, Issue 1–3, pp 51–94

Poverty, Inequality and Deprivation in South Africa: An Analysis of the 1993 SALDRU Survey

  • Stephan Klasen


This paper analyses poverty and inequality in South Africa based on data from a comprehensive multi-purpose household survey undertaken in 1993 to provide baseline statistics on poverty and its determinants to the new government. The paper shows that South Africa has among the highest levels of income inequality in the world and compares poorly in most social indicators to countries with similar income levels. Much of the poverty in the country is a direct result of apartheid policies that denied equal access to education, employment, services, and resources to the black population of the country. As a result, poverty has a very strong racial dimension with poverty concentrated among the African population. In addition, poverty is much higher in rural areas, and particularly high in the former homelands. Poverty among female-headed households and among children is also higher than average. Moreover, poverty is closely related to poor education and lack of employment. The poor suffer from lack of access to education, quality health care, basic infrastructure, transport, are heavily indebted, have little access to productive resources, and are heavily dependent on remittances and social transfers, particularly social pensions and disability grants. The paper uses an income-based definition of poverty for most of the analysis. In addition, it develops a broad-based index of deprivation including income, employment, wealth, access to services, health, education, and perceptions of satisfaction as its components. While on average the two indicators correspond fairly closely, the income poverty measure misses a considerable number of people who are severely deprived in many of the non-income measures of well-being. This group of severely deprived not identified by the income poverty measure consists predominantly of Africans living in rural areas, concentrated particularly in the province of KwaZulu/Natal.


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stephan Klasen
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre for History and EconomicsKing's College, University of CambridgeCambridgeUnited Kingdom

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