South African Census Finds Economic Disparities Between Whites And Blacks Growing

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November 5, 2012 ‐ By Ann Brown

Lonmin Marikana Platinum Mine workers on strike for higher wages. Many died or were injured in the protests. Image: Rex Features via AP Images

In 1994, South Africa held its first elections effectively bringing an end to apartheid and putting Nelson Mandela in power. It may have been the end of the struggle for Mandela and his fellow South African freedom fighters, but it was the beginning of a new battle.

South Africa has the largest economy in Africa, and the 28th largest in the world. And the World Bank has ranked it as an upper-middle income economy. Still, about a quarter of the population is unemployed and lives on less than US $1.25 a day, according to the United Nations Development Program.

Unemployment continues to be extremely rampant across the country. The most affected are black South Africans — 80 percent of South Africans are of black African ancestry. Although many blacks have risen to middle or upper classes, the unemployment rate of blacks has increased sharply between 1994 and 2003.

Now comes just-released data that finds South African whites earn six times more than blacks. Results from the 2011 census show that nearly two decades after the end of apartheid disparities between rich and poor are growing.

“The average annual income for black households was 60,613 rand ($7,500) in 2011, according to the census, while white households earned an average of 365,134 rand ($45,600) per year,” reports Yahoo News. “The census figures on services said nearly 1.3 million households did not have access to piped water, and the majority of those households are black.”

Many people in the prosperous country still do not have proper housing. The South African Census 2011 found that there remains  more than 1.2 million “informal” dwellings, including squatter camps. This does not include 712,956 shacks. And, while some 8.2 million households have flushing toilets, 748,597 households have no toilets at all.

South African President Jacob Zuma was even disheartened by the report. “These figures tell us at the bottom of the rung is the black majority who continue to be confronted by deep poverty, unemployment, and inequality, despite the progress that we have made since 1994,” he said in a statement. “Much remains to be done to further improve the livelihoods of our people especially in terms of significant disparities that still exist between the rich and poor.”

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