Tracking inequality: Tool shows you where you fall in SA's income distribution

Middle-class South Africans may be surprised to see how privileged they are compared to the rest of the population

Picture: EWN

JOHANNESBURG - According to Statistics South Africa (StatsSA), more than 50% of South Africa's population is living in poverty in what has become a very unequal society.

While you may not be among the 1% of the household population earning around R50,000 a month, comparing your monthly income to national averages can give you some perspective as to exactly where you fit in the country's income distribution and the extent of inequality.

The University of Cape Town (UCT)'s Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit (Saldru),
based in the School of Economics, has developed an online income comparison tool to do this.

All you do is enter your monthly household income (after tax), the number of individuals in your household and say whether you think you're poor, middle class or rich.

The tool then calculates where you actually fit in compared to other households. Your personal information is not stored.

“The tool was designed to help people understand the nature and extent of South Africa’s inequality. It is designed to help people see themselves in South Africa’s story. By making the story about the person who interacts with the tool, Saldru hopes that every South African who engages with it will reflect on where they fit in the bigger picture and consider what role, if any, they may play in changing the status quo,” says Saldru’s director, Professor Murray Leibbrandt.

"Middle-class South Africans may be surprised to see how privileged they are compared to the rest of the population," says UCT.

Some of the tool's stats reveal that 1% of the population earn R133 or less per month and 84% earn less than R5,000.

“Despite our familiarity with the data, plotting South Africa’s income inequality on a graph and seeing what the disparity actually looks like is shocking even for us. It’s quite devastating and challenging to be able to visualise the fact that 79% of the country’s population live in households where the per capita income is lower than the minimum wage of R3,500,” says Leibbrandt.