What Are the Causes of Poverty in South Africa?

The causes of poverty in South Africa are numerous and complicated. A history of apartheid has exacerbated income inequality over the decades, with Africans, Asians and other non-whites restricted to low-quality education and health care with few opportunities for employment. Consultancy Africa Initiative, also known as CAI, believes that this poverty is symptomatic of a larger, systematic inequality in South African society and culture.

Unemployment, poverty and race are all strongly linked in South Africa. The elite minority, composed mostly of whites, was only 9.2 percent of the 2008 population, but held 40.3 percent of the income.

In 1995, the South African government determined the poverty line as an urban household of two adults and three children earning less than R840 per month, or roughly $80. The government launched the Expanded Public Works Programme, or EPWP, to create temporary jobs that provided income and relief for the unemployed, and is instituting affirmative-action policies aimed at black job applicants.

The government has also guaranteed free health care for children up to age 6 and pregnant women, created programs that educate children on basic nutrition and restructured health-care services to target the poor in rural areas. The government has also provided funding to renovate and restructure schools and instituted affirmative-action policies to allow disadvantaged black children to compete on a more even footing with their white or colored peers.