The General Household Survey (GHS) 2018 by Statistics South Africa (StatsSA) has found that, despite service delivery and education improving marginally over the last decade, the inequality between provinces remain stark.
The survey, which StatsSA described as its ‘biggest undertaking’, was launched on Tuesday, after the organisation visited 20 908 households where face-to-face interviews were held and information about 71 137 individuals was collected. The survey found that access to government services such as water, education, sanitation and electricity have improved in the country on average.
The Western Cape, for instance, showed a marginal increase in households with improved sanitation as 93.8% of households in 2018 said the service has improved compared to 92.2% in 2002. Similarly, 92.8% of households in Gauteng in 2018 said the service has improved, an increase from 88.9% in 2002.
However, despite nearly doubling access to improved sanitation since 2002, access remains the most limited in Limpopo, with 58.9% of households in the province reporting improved sanitation in 2018, compared to only 26.9% before. Of the households in Mpumalanga, furthermore, 68.1% has improved access to improved sanitation since 2002.
StatsSA statistician general Risenga Maluleke noted this when asked whether the country has improved overall: “It depends on which angle you look at.”
In terms of energy for cooking, across the country the use of wood and paraffin has declined from 20% and 16.1% in 2002 to 7.7% and 3.6% in 2018, respectively, he said.
At the same time, however, there were declines in connection to electricity in Gauteng, which he said could be attributed to the rapid migration that the province experiences. The report found that the percentage of households connected to the mains electricity supply in Gauteng is 77.7% in 2018 compared to 87.2% in 2002.
All other provinces showed an increase in households connected to electricity with those households in the Eastern Cape increased from 55.3% in 2002 to 87.4% in 2018.
Overall, access to education has improved nationally. The GHS found that the percentage of individuals aged 20 years and older who did not have any education decreased from 11.4% in 2002 to 4.5% in 2018.
Those individuals with at least a grade 12 qualification increased from 30.5% to 45.2% over the same period.
Large disparity remains in obtaining post-school qualifications by province.
In Gauteng, for example, the percentage of persons aged 20 years and older who have attained post-secondary education in 2018 is 20.9% compared to only 8.7% in the Northern Cape and 9.1% in the North West.
The GHS found that almost a quarter (24.2%) of learners who have dropped out of school before the age of 18 years cited the lack of money as the main reason for doing so.
Gender inequality persists, as 14.5% of female learners cited family commitments as the main reason for dropping out compared to 0.2% of male respondents. At the same time, 11.8% of young male learners said that they dropped out of school because “education is useless,” compared to only 3.9% of female respondents.
The GHS found that the percentage of households and persons who benefited from a social grant have increased since 2002.
While 31% of persons benefited from a grant in 2018, 44.3% of the households received at least one grant. Grants were the second most important source of income (45.2%) for households after salaries (64.8%). Furthermore, it was the main source of income for 19.9% of households nationally.
When asked whether or not South Africa’s grant system is sustainable, Maluleke stressed the importance of its independence in commenting on policy, but ultimately added that the numbers show that relying on grants as a primary source of income is not sustainable.
“The survey should be used by those in the policy space to look at the policies in relation to planning, monitoring and evaluation of programmes. It’s not for StatsSA to comment on policy making. We want those in the public space to take heed of the numbers,” Maluleke said.
But he did go on and say that: “Certainly, grants are not sustainable. You cannot have a society of people who aspire to grow older just so that they can get a grant.”
Commenting on South Africa’s overall improvement in access to services and education, Dr Isabelle Schmidt, chief director of social statistics at StatsSA, emphasised that even though there has been a marginal increase in access to services overall, the quality of services remains a massive challenge for the country going forward.
“What’s really important is that we’ve made massive strides in access to basic services and education,” said Schmidt.
“It’s not so much improving access and broadening access to households but about improving functionality of the services. We are seeing in the data that there’s been a decrease in satisfaction with the quality of services. The survey points to this being the next challenge to overcome,” she said.
Read the full report below: