CAPE TOWN, Sept 25 – South Africa has reduced the number of people living in poverty, but retains an "unacceptable" gap between rich and poor, according to a development report released Friday.
The Development Indicators report showed the income of South Africa’s poor rose from 783 rand (105 US dollars, 71 euros) to 1,041 rand a month, with a significant shift of people from the lower to middle classes.
"The change out of extreme poverty is occurring, there are still too many people there but there is a shift out of that," Ronette Engela of the presidential policy unit told journalists.
"The improvement in people’s lives could be attributed to economic growth and expanding employment as well as government’s poverty alleviation intiatives, amongst others social assistance support and better housing," said the report.
Despite the decline in poverty levels, South Africa maintained a massive gap between the rich and the poor, with the wealthy getting richer faster.
A long period of sustained economic growth — interrupted by a recession which hit in 2008 — actually increased inequality, which the report said was "unacceptably high".
Inter-racial inequality was still high, with the average income of a black South African in 2009 at 845 rand, compared to 8,141 rand earned by white South Africans.
Planning Minister Trevor Manuel said the report detailed a "warts and all" account of the state of South Africa and would be used to gauge the outcomes of policy.
It showed the negative impacts of the economic crisis such as a loss of 267,000 jobs in the second quarter of 2009, as well as concerns about increasing mortality due to HIV/AIDS.