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Study: Black middle class increases

At least three million black South Africans are now in the middle class.

At least three million black South Africans are now in the middle class. Picture: EWN.

CAPE TOWN - The black middle class in South Africa is growing according to a study by Stellenbosch University.

The study revealed the black middle class had grown from 350,000 in 1993 to three million in 2012.

Stellenbosch University's Professor Ronelle Burger said it took them two years to conduct the study.

However, she says researchers could not agree on the definition of middle class.

"We did not agree on the definition of a middle class. For instance the sociologists and the anthropologists went to individuals and asked them do you feel middle class? Whereas the economists, as we traditionally do, we used income and expenditure classifications."

Burger said some of the results are dependent on the data you use.

"But the one thing that is clear as a fact is that black share of the middle class has expanded dramatically over this period of democracy. I think that says something about our society. There are still reasons to be concerned about poverty and about the pace of transformation, but what is very clear is that there is something happening at the top end. There is reason for optimism based on that."

Stellenbosch University Professor Hennie Kotzé, who was also part of the research, says South Africa unfortunately remains unequal.

"That's why we stress economic growth in South Africa because we need people to move into the middle class because eventually, they will have a stake in society. At the moment, the poor class doesn't have any stake in society."

At the same time, the emerging black middle class is driving car sales in the country.

Standard Bank Vehicle and Asset Finance found a 19 percent growth in its black customers between 2011 and 2012, compared to only seven percent for white customers.

Some political parties have slammed the slow pace of transformation in the country.

New political party Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) believes the country needs a radical policy to narrow the gap between rich and poor.

It believes land distribution without compensation and mine nationalisation is the answer.