Inequality in South Africa has worsened to the extent that the country is now among the most unequal societies in the developing world according to the annual South African Reconciliation Barometer Survey which has been published by the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR).
The IJR has warned that – like in many other parts of the world - mass retrenchments in South Africa could become the catalyst for violent action that unions would not be able to contain. The Institute has argued for the establishment of a partnership between government and other parties to address the problem of unemployment.
“The complexion and character of the labour market has not changed much since 1994 despite many legislative gains for workers' rights. Social inequality has grown with most South Africans perceiving the gap between rich and poor as being the country's most divisive fault-line,” says IJR head Jan Hofmeyr.
The SA economy requires major structural reform for the country to achieve its most basic developmental targets.
“Just over a third of South Africans polled said that income inequality has become the most divisive aspect of South African society, while a fifth attributed it to the unresolved issue of race. However educated and affluent citizens on the other hand have been the major beneficiaries of a skills-biased economy’.
Black South Africans were also the most likely population group to report an improvement in their living conditions in recent years and the least likely to report deterioration.
The survey found that 39% of respondents felt they were likely to be unemployed at some point this year while 48% of them said it was better to have a low-paying job than no job at all. On education, the survey shows that the performance of some formerly disadvantaged schools has declined while the gap between the results of those schools in privileged areas increased.
“The South African economy requires major structural reform for the country to achieve its most basic developmental targets. The bold option would be to make strategic but difficult choices now to avoid delaying accelerating development any longer,” says Hofmeyr.