WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Almost 20 years after the end of apartheid, widespread joblessness and wide gaps between the rich and poor still plague South Africa. Underscoring decades of double-digit unemployment, a February-March 2012 Gallup survey found South Africans are far more likely to say the government should prioritize job creation over other issues it could address.
The killing of 34 striking miners by police in South Africa earlier this month has exposed the potential for class-based conflict in the country. A recent World Bank report on South Africa notes that providing broad-based access to jobs is a crucial factor in alleviating the country's inequality problem. However, South Africa has largely fallen short of that goal, with an unemployment rate that has averaged above 25% since 2000. The country was also hit hard by the global financial crisis, losing about 1 million jobs between 2008 and 2009 and going into recession for the first time in 17 years.
Currently, 28% of South Africans overall say it is a good time to find a job in their community, while 69% say it is a bad time. Those job opportunities that do exist are disproportionately concentrated in the cities, so that South Africans living in urban areas are almost twice as likely as those living in small towns or rural areas to say it is a good time to find a job -- 40% vs. 22%, respectively. Correspondingly, the richest 20% of South Africans are about twice as likely as the remaining 80% to perceive job opportunities as good in the city or area where they live.
The World Bank argues that one of South Africa's major problems is that its rural poor are not adequately empowered to acquire jobs that will help them move up the economic ladder. In any country, policies that promote equitable access to education, healthcare, clean water, and other essential services are crucial to prevent the hardening of boundaries between those at different ends of the income spectrum. However, South Africans at different income levels report different levels of satisfaction with several such services.
Gallup's 2012 survey indicates less than half of South Africans overall (47%) are satisfied with the availability of quality healthcare in their community -- but that figure rises to seven in 10 among those in the top income quintile. Satisfaction with the quality of water and the availability of good, affordable housing also spike upward among the country's richest 20%. Importantly, majorities in each quintile say they are satisfied with their local schools, though here also satisfaction trends upward with income.
Despite South Africa's status as the continent's largest economy, its economic growth has been sluggish in recent years compared with other sub-Saharan African nations, such as Ghana, Liberia, Angola, and Ethiopia. Reduced demand for exports from South Africa's main trading partners, Europe and China, is partly to blame.
However, the pace of South Africa's growth has also been stymied by its uneven distribution, which has kept large swaths of the population from getting good jobs and fully participating in the country's economic development. Gallup data help illuminate important gaps in access to jobs and essential services, and support the notion that a greater focus on human capital development in low-income and rural areas may promote stronger, more inclusive growth throughout the country.
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Results are based on face-to-face interviews with 1,000 South African adults, aged 15 and older, conducted in February-March 2012. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3.3 percentage points. The margin of error reflects the influence of data weighting. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.
For more complete methodology and specific survey dates, please review Gallup's Country Data Set details.