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Is the growth of SA's black middle class dwindling?

The SAIRR released a report on the size, growth & likely future expansion of SA’s middle class.

Picture: Supplied.

JOHANNESBURG - The once-rapid growth of South Africa's black middle class is slowing due to government policies, according to the South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR).

The institute has released a report on the size, growth and likely future expansion of the country's middle class.

In it, it cites the black middle class as expanding quickly, but is now warning that it may very well slow.

The institute's Gabriela Mackay explained what this all means.

First, she said the SAIRR, instead of looking at a definition of the 'black middle class', looked at indicators.

For example, households that were spending R10,000 or more a month, people with degrees, people who worked in top occupations, and people with medical aid coverage.

She said, "We also looked at people who had bonded property which served as an indicator of their access to the financial services sector."

The institute also looked at appliances owned, such as DStv Premium subscriptions, home-based internet and whether they owned personal computers or laptops.

The study looked at disposable income instead of household income.

Mackay said the number of households in this group accounted for 15 percent of the total households in the country.

"Based upon that we've said that one in 10 South Africans have a solid claim to fame but live a middle-class lifestyle," said Mackay.

Mackay said while the civil services have acted as an incubator for the black middle class, because the black middle class is mainly first generational, they're more vulnerable to economic downturns.

She said, "They don't have the same fallback as the white middle class, which is multi-generational and therefore more robust."

Mackay emphasised that not every single indicator was broken down by race, but what the SAIRR had seen as certain factors, such as medical aid and annual disposable income, which had been broken down by race.

"What we've seen there is a percentage increase in terms of black spending in proportion to white spending."

The SAIRR has seen an increase of about 40+ percent from 1996 to 2013.

Listen: Listen to the full interview with the Money Show's Bruce Whitfield and Gabriela Mackay.

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