Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

SA in top five of world’s most miserable countries

Inflation is a disease that can wreck a society, Milton Friedman, the late Nobel laureate economist, once said.

Add rising unemployment to that disease and his profession ascribes a rather nontechnical term to the debilitating effect on people – misery.

This year, that affliction will be most acute in Venezuela, Argentina, South Africa, Ukraine and Greece – the five most painful economies in which to live and work, according to the Bloomberg survey data that make up the misery index for 2015.

It’s a simple equation: unemployment rate plus change in the consumer price index equals misery.

In Ukraine’s case, war will exact greater economic casualties. Tension with Russia-backed rebels will prolong joblessness in the Eastern European nation, and inflation won’t offer much relief, the surveys shows.

The one-two punch means Ukrainian consumers will be the fourth-saddest among 51 economies (including the eurozone area), according to forecasts based on the measure.

Adding to the agony is the relatively abysmal income growth that will fail to cushion Ukrainian households against the still-surging prices. At $8 494 gross domestic product (GDP) per capita this year, Ukraine only edges out the Philippines among the countries surveyed and measured by the International Monetary Fund’s proxy for resident income.

Unemployment will probably climb to 9.5% in Ukraine this year from its 8.9% rate as of the third quarter in 2014, the survey data shows. Inflation is projected to rise at a 17.5% in 2015, compared with the 24.9% December year-on-year rate.

The depressing expectations for Ukraine still aren’t as bad as what the embattled nation faced in 2014, when it finished second in the misery index.

The 2015 projections, dismal as they are, makes Ukraine overtake South Africa and Argentina from last year’s misery-index readings.

The three countries that will probably see the most economic misery in 2015 – South Africa, Argentina and Venezuela – haven’t budged much from their 2014 rankings, when they occupied three of the top four spots, the data shows.

At 78.5%, the estimated consumer price index inflation rate in most-miserable Venezuela more than quadruples Ukraine’s inflation rate. The dire shortage of basic goods in Venezuela last week prompted neighbouring Trinidad and Tobago to offer a tissue paper-for-oil swap.

Five years after investors popularised the term PIIGS to describe a handful of European countries with bloated budget deficits, four of those five countries remain in dire straits, according to their projected misery indexes.

Greece is fifth, Spain is sixth, Portugal is 10th and Italy is 11th in this year’s ranking, though each show about average projected income levels relative to survey peers. Ireland happily sits further down the chain at number 16 in the misery ranking, with a much better than average GDP per capita of $48 787.

The average GDP per capita of the 51 economies in the misery index was $31 079. – Bloomberg

Subscribe for R500/year

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them and get a 57% discount in your first year.

Michelle Jamrisko
Michelle Jamrisko works from Singapore. Bloomberg SE Asia economy reporter. Ex-Kyodo News. Old beats: U.S. economy, Congress, White House. Happy traveler. Chicago fan. mjamrisko at bloomberg dot net Michelle Jamrisko has over 3351 followers on Twitter.

Related stories


If you’re reading this, you clearly have great taste

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to the Mail & Guardian for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a week, and get more great reads.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here


Subscribers only

R350 social relief grant not enough to live on

Nearly half of the population in South Africa — one of the most unequal countries in the world — is considered chronically poor.

More top stories

Young and jobless? Apply for one of 287 000 education...

Education department urges young, jobless people to apply for teaching assistant vacancies

Officials implicated in arts council mismanagement will be brought to...

The National Arts Council vows that every cent from the sector’s Covid-19-relief programme will be disbursed to artists, after auditors uncover maladministration

Covid-19 vaccine mandates: a constitutional balancing act

South Africa’s laws allow the government to implement mandatory Covid vaccinations but, if it chooses this path, it must do so responsibly

Popularity will not guarantee mayoral selection — Ramaphosa

ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa has promised a more rigorous mayoral selection process, which will involve the party’s top six

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…