Inequality and Economic Inclusion

Tuesday, 08 September 2020

Inequality in South Africa: An Overview

  • Year: 2020
  • Organisation: TIPS
  • Author(s): Neva Makgetla (TIPS)
  • Countries and Regions: South Africa

A quarter of a century after apartheid ended, South Africa remained one of the most unequal countries in the world, by class, race and gender. Inequality emerged in unusually stark differences in household incomes; asset ownership, including both concentrated business ownership and household resources; access to quality education, which still largely reflected family wealth and race; and municipal infrastructure. In general, the historic labour-sending regions continued to lag far behind the rest of the country.

The core question becomes why inequality persisted in these different areas long after overtly racial laws were eliminated. This paper first reviews the extent of inequality along each dimension. It then analyses how and why these persisted, including the effects of government policies. On this basis, it proposes strategic responses that, if carried out rigorously and on a large enough scale, could go further towards overcoming the deep inequalities that have effectively blocked both social development and economic growth in South Africa.