Inequality and Poverty in South Africa

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Inequality and poverty are found in all present societies, although they are more visible and manifest in some societies than other societies. Poverty is a condition in which one is unable to get even the minimum basic needs of life such as food, shelter, clothing and sanitation (Haughton & Khandker, 2009). Poverty is also a multidimensional concept that seeks to measure levels of deprivation experienced by a person, household or community. There are various types of poverty which includes absolute, generational ,situational, relative poverty, urban and rural poverty.

Inequality is uneven distribution of resources and opportunities among individuals in household, groups in a population or among countries. Inequality consists of its types which is political inequality, economic inequality and social inequality (Bucelli, 2017). In this assignment I will critically discuss how poverty and inequality link, which is their relationship. This assignment will also discuss the effects these two subjects have on each other and lastly, I will discuss about the change in relationship of these two aspects in the post-apartheid South Africa.

Relationship Between Inequality and Poverty

The relationship between poverty and inequality is neither clear nor direct. Poverty and inequality are analytically distinct concepts. They vary independently of each other and it is misleading beyond a point to treat the one as a marker of the other as a marker of the other. It is difficult to make any meaningful statement about relationship between the two without specifying which concept of poverty and which aspect of inequality one has in mind (Ander, Betule 2011). The relationship between poverty and inequality can be measured in different ways.

Measurement of the relationship can be done through economic resources which mostly focuses on income, it can also be measured in material goods and services as material deprivation measures provide the picture of the actual goods and services mandatory lacked by an individual or household (Townsend, 2000). According to the extent of freedom people had to attain multiple ’beings and doings’. Lastly, it can be measured through social exclusions which is a concept that is related to relative poverty and uneven distribution of goods and services. Majority of the work on distributional inequality has maintained a traditional focus on income and wealth (Burton, 2015).

Inequality and Poverty Relationship Through Economic Resources

The relationship has been seen through capabilities and multidimensional approaches. The capability approach initiated that well-being should be primarily evaluated according to the extent of freedom, people had to attain multiple ’beings and doings’ that they value. In this approach, addressing low income or equalizing economic variables is not a good thing because not all people convert income into functioning in the same way. These conversions rates may be highly dependent on conditional circumstances, both personal and social (Sen 2011). These circumstances may include heterogeneous physical characteristics such as age, gender, illness or disability, meaning that some individuals require higher expenditure on treatment or care. It also does include local environmental variation such as climate, epidemiology and pollution which can impose certain costs such as more or less expensive heating or clothing requirement. According to Sen (2011), variation between people in the rate of conversion of income points to a rational for moving from material resources to the multidimensional space of capabilities and functioning in the assessment of inequality and the assessment of poverty.

Inequality and Poverty Relationship Through Material Goods and Services

It can be argued that focusing on income and wealth in the analysis of poverty and inequality provides an indirect indication of living standards via the private financial resources available to attain them (Ringen 2010). Access of material goods and services have more direct relationship to the quality of life people can attain. The rural people do not have access to good infrastructure than people in towns. This unequal distribution of resources between rural and urban areas leads to poverty in rural areas which leads to increased mortality rate due to lack of hospitals, sanitation and education. Measures of material deprivation can be seen as being situated within multidimensional approaches to poverty and inequality which broaden and complement the relationship between poverty and inequality (Ringen, 2010).

Inequality and Poverty Relationship Through Social Exclusions

Social exclusion is a concept related to relative poverty and deprivation (Burton, 2015). It is the breakdown of social bond between the individual and society that is cultural and moral, rather than economically interested (Bucelli, 2017). There is specialization paradigm which is the exclusion that reflects discrimination, rooted in uneven forced rights and market failures. There is also a monopoly paradigm which emphasizes the existence of hierarchical power relations in a social order, powerful groups restrict the access the poor through social closure which shows inequality between the superior and the inferior. The superior group have all the resources they need but the inferior group is impoverished from material gain leading to poverty (Bucelli, 2017).

Inequality Affects on Poverty

Inequality and poverty affect each other directly and indirectly through the link with economic growth. The small changes in income distribution have large impact on poverty. Income explore direct sensitivity of poverty to distribution changes. The estimation of income inequality contextual effect had taken into account that the individual income variation has led to poverty. Inequality affect poverty because distribution of income of an individual does not only depend on their work but also on the superior individual who associate distribution with the area where they live or social group to which they belong (Haughton & Khandker, 2009). A Rising disparity in income distribution along with increasing class segregation have produced a geographic concentration of poverty. As a result, societies with large income inequalities are likely to have higher levels of individual poverty as well as residential poverty concentration (Gordon, 2005). Inequality have effect on poverty because it has destroyed social cohesion leading to stunted growth leading to increased rates of poverty.

Relationship Changes In The Post-Apartheid South Africa

South Africa remain as one of the highest in the world in terms of income inequality and poverty. There are gains that has been made in reducing inequality to reduce poverty but there are gaps that remain (Albertyn, 2003). During the apartheid era, exclusions were based on race and class, but now the struggle is between the superior and the inferior despite of race, class and culture. The gains that have been made include houses that has been built for the poor, providing health care by building public hospitals and clinics in rural areas, and also by providing social security and education.

Parity was achieved when black and white pensioners received the same amount for social pension. The democratic government deracialized and restricted social security further by introducing Child Support Grants for all people who are not employed by the government, irrespective of the race (McCord, 2006). Poverty and inequality accompany unemployment. The issue of poverty and unemployment continues to remain a challenge for the government. Inequality in the post-apartheid are have led to an increase in poverty between men and women, it has been found that women are disadvantaged in work market.

In conclusion poverty and inequality goes hand in hand, none is the marker of the other. As it has been defined in introduction that poverty is a condition in which one is unable to get the minimum basic necessities of live which includes shelter, sanitation, clothing. The democratic government have tried by all means to reduce poverty by providing RDP houses, giving social pensions and by introducing Child Support Grant. poverty can be reduced by opening facilities that will teach people skills rather than the type of education that we have now which mostly require the use of books.

The other thing that can be done is to control the upgrade of technology because it led to retrenchment in many companies leading to poverty. The relationship of poverty and inequality is mostly measured in various ways. Democratic government is doing by all means to reduce poverty and inequality. There is still a long way to go to overcome poverty and inequality in South Africa.

Cite this paper

Inequality and Poverty in South Africa. (2020, Dec 06). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/inequality-and-poverty-in-south-africa/

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