Statistician general Pali Lehohla said on Thursday that South Africa's poverty levels are decreasing. "Poverty has indeed been declining in South Africa," Lehohla said.
"Indeed, in many ways it [poverty] is being tackled. Looking at the [United Nations] Millennium Development Goals, US$1 a day, South Africa has already achieved that."
He was briefing reporters in Pretoria on Statistics South Africa's (Stats SA's) report on poverty trends in South Africa.
The report analysed trends in poverty and inequality between 2006 and 2011 based on money metric-data collected through the 2005/06 and 2010/11 Income and Expenditure surveys, plus the 2008/09 Living Conditions Survey.
Lehohla said three different types of poverty lines were used in the Stats SA report.
These were the food poverty line (R321 a month to buy food), lower-bound poverty line (R433 a month to buy food and clothing), and the upper-bound poverty line (R620 a month to buy food, clothes and provide shelter).
In 2006, about 27 out of every 100 people lived below the food poverty line. In 2009 during the recession, this number rose to 32, and in 2011 it dropped to 20 out of 100. This translated into 12.6-million, 15.8-million, and 10.2-million people respectively.
The lower-bound poverty line in 2006 was 42 out of 100, 44 in 2009, and 32 in 2011. This equalled 20-million, 21.8-million, and 16.3-million people respectively.
The four-million fewer South Africans living in poverty, as measured by the upper-bound poverty line, meant there were now 23-million people living in poverty in 2011 compared to 27-million in 2006. This meant 46 people out of 100 were living in poverty in 2011, compared to 57 people out of every 100 who were living in poverty in 2006.
Social grants had an important impact on reducing poverty, with 2.6-million grants issued in 1993 and 16.6-million in 2011.
Lehohla said the issuing of social grants, between 2006 and 2011 rose by 46%, especially the child support grant. In 2002, 13.4-million people fell within the self-declared hunger bracket, while in 2011 6.6-million people were in the same bracket.
When looking at what the poor spent their money on, food was the main cost at approximately 33% of their income.
In the provinces, 23% of households in KwaZulu-Natal, 18% in the Eastern Cape, and 16% in Limpopo lived in poverty.
Gauteng followed with 13%, the North West and Mpumalanga at 8%, the Western Cape and Free State at 6%, with Northern Cape households, at 2%, being the least affected by poverty.
Of households located in rural areas in South Africa, 55.2% of those lived below the upper-bound poverty line, while 22% of households in urban areas were below the same line.
Those hardest hit by poverty in terms of age were the zero to 17-year-old age group, at 55.7% in 2011, versus 68.9% in 2006.
The next worst off were 18- to 24-year-olds at around 50% in 2011, versus around 59% in 2006.
Citizens who were 65 or older, of whom 55.6% lived below the upper-bound poverty line in 2006, had improved to 36.2% in 2011.
At a municipal level, the top 10 municipalities with the highest levels of poverty were in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) and the Eastern Cape (EC), which Lehohla said was in part "as a result of the [former] homelands".
Msinga municipality in KwaZulu-Natal showed the highest level of poverty at 37%.
This was followed by Ntabankulu (EC, 34%), Umhlabuyalingana (KZN, 30%), Vulamehlo (KZN, 29%), Port St Johns (EC, 28%), Engcobo (EC, 27%), Ngquza Hill (EC, 27%), Mbhashe (EC, 26%), Maphumulo (KZN, 25%), and Umzimvubu (EC, 25%).
Nkandla municipality, where President Jacob Zuma's homestead is located, had the fifth-highest level of poverty in KwaZulu-Natal.
While poverty levels had shrunk, inequality remained largely unchanged as South Africa's Gini co-efficient, a measurement of inequality between zero (total equality) and one (total inequality), was 0.72 in 2006, 0.7 in 2009 and 0.69 in 2011, based on income data.
Total national consumption in 2011 saw the richest 20% of South Africans account for 61% of consumption, from 64% in 2006, while the bottom 20% watched their share shrink from 4.4% in 2006 to 4.3% in 2011. – Sapa