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Thursday, 27 July, 2000, 15:19 GMT 16:19 UK
SA poverty gap remains

Six years after the official end of apartheid, its legacy lives on in a huge disparity in wealth between black and white South Africans, according to research by the University of South Africa (Unisa).

But the research also found that the racial poverty gap was decreasing.

At the same time, the gap between wealthy and poor blacks is widening.

Children in township street
The poorest blacks are no better off
Unisa's Bureau for Market Research found that white South Africans' expected combined household income for 2000 is higher than that of the combined households of blacks - even though whites constitute only 12% of the population and blacks 76%.

Even though black South Africans far outnumber whites, each group accounts for an almost identical share of the national total of household income.

It is estimated that blacks will take home 43.4% of the national total income of R603.6bn ($86.7bn) this year, while whites are expected to take 44.4%.

But the racial gap has closed somewhat since 1995, when blacks took home 39.1% of the total household income as against 48% for whites.

"The disparity between the richest 20% and poorest 20% of South Africans almost halved between 1991 and 1996," said Professor Andre Ligthelm, a co-author of the report.

Affirmative action

But at the same time, the wealth gap between wealthier and poorer blacks has increased.

White and black South Africans
The black-white gap remains wide, despite having shrunk slightly
Among black South Africans, the poorest fifth of households earn 2.6% of household income, while the richest fifth earn 58.9%, the report suggests.

Professor Ligthelm said this was due in part to the post-apartheid affirmative action policies, which have seen private and public sector employers seek out black candidates for high-profile, well-paid jobs.

"The affirmative action programme has seen the employment of more blacks and there has been a considerable increase of blacks in the civil service," he said.

Affirmative action, while widely welcomed as a means of redressing the imbalances of apartheid, has been criticised for creating a small class of well-off blacks, while doing little to benefit the majority.

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See also:

09 Jul 00 | Africa
Poverty 'bigger threat than Aids'
04 Feb 00 | Africa
Mbeki talks tough on unions
01 Jun 99 | South Africa elections
South Africa's economy: Much to be done
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