At the launch of the Poverty and Inequality Assessment Report today, the minister in the Presidency for planning, monitoring and evaluation, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, said a skills revolution is needed to reduce poverty and narrow the inequality gap in South Africa.
The report reveals that inequality remains high in the country, has been consistent and has increased since 1994, which slows down poverty reduction.
StatsSA statistician-general Risenga Maluleke added that though poverty has been reduced, the intensity in which those who feel poverty is still the same and that unemployment is a major contributor to poverty.
“We need to pay a lot of attention to SMMEs [Small Macro Micro Enterprises] because those are the areas where we can create a lot of jobs,” Dlamini-Zuma said.
However, the minister conceded that many of the poor South Africans living in rural areas are unemployable because they do not have the skills required by the economy, which is also concerning because that means if the country’s economy were to grow at the required rate, the poor would still not benefit.
She added that radical economic transformation is necessary to ensure that the black and poor citizens take part in the country’s economy and that industrialisation would also go a long way to address the triple challenge of poverty, unemployment and inequality.
“In South Africa, we have lots of female-headed households and the face of poverty in South Africa is still feminine, as well as that of children … so I think we need to pay a lot of attention to that, too,” Dlamini-Zuma said.
The minister said other efforts of addressing these challenges involve the government looking at how land in rural areas can be used as an income generator.
She said the findings of the report should inform government’s plans to address poverty and inequality in the country.
“As government, we have a huge interest in finding solutions,” she said
Dlamini-Zuma said the report shows that inequality between races remains a concerning factor and that through education and acquiring necessary skills poverty could be eliminated.
She said though social grants and other pro-poor government policies have gone a long way in assisting the poor, it is important to reduce the number of grant recipients and create more asset owners.
She said the report also shows that no sector can work alone to address these challenges and that all stakeholders must pull together in order “to reclaim the dignity of people from the dehumanizing scourge of poverty and inequality.”
Dlamini Zuma said the country should not shy away from the fact that apartheid was meant for excluding blacks from the economy and acquiring skills and so overcoming that challenge will go a long way to addressing poverty and inequality the country.
World Bank Country Director, Dr Paul Noumba said South Africa had made significant progress in reducing poverty and access to services, however, that progress has been undermined by the country’s low economic growth.