SA-TIED research on inequality and social mobility featured in prominent SA business weekly feature

August 2019

Murray Leibbrandt, who co-leads the SA-TIED work stream on Turning the tide on inequality, was interviewed by Financial Mail this week for a feature on poverty, inequality, and social mobility in South Africa. He was asked to comment on his recent paper, WIDER Working Paper 184/2018, Taking stock of South African income inequality, which synthesizes the results of a recently completed country-wide research project that sought to examine the drivers of high inequality in South Africa.

The project is one of the most recent to study poverty and inequality in South Africa. Professor Leibbrandt summarized some of the main findings of this research, which has been foundational to the ongoing work being carried out by SA-TIED under the inequality work stream.

New research from the work stream was at the center of the Financial Mail feature, ‘Inequality: SA’s vanishing middle class’ which has now been published online at Business Live. This latest work by SA-TIED researchers Rocco Zizzamia and Simone Schotte, based at SALDRU and UNU-WIDER respectively, together with Professor Leibbrandt, updates our knowledge on poverty, inequality, and socioeconomic class in South Africa.

The working paper examines transitions into and out of poverty by South African households and their movements between socioeconomic classes over the period 2008-17. The results indicate that the middle class in South Africa is smaller than previously thought and that the risk of poverty for vulnerable middle-class families is real — both findings indicate that South Africa’s middle class is at risk of shrinking, which would be a set-back for efforts to curtail inequality in the country.