A Matter of Fact: 5 ways to measure 'middle class' South Africa

The growth of the middle class in South Africa is often used as a yardstick for economic growth in South Africa, according to Africa Check's senior researcher Kate Wilkinson, but how do we go about measuring this grouping?

Wilkinson sat down with Azania Mosaka to talk about five key identifiers.

  • Self Identification - if you think you are middle class then you are.

Around 30% of South Africans identify as being middle class. When we looked at South Africa's black population. it was slightly lower, just 24.4% of black people identified as being middle class. But interestingly of the whole middle class as a whole, just over 60% of that group was black. So they were definitely in the majority.

Kate Wilkinson, Africa Check senior researcher
  • Income - The literal middle

How this is done is - you identify characteristics, in this case, it is personal income. Then you look at people who are approximately the middle. There was a 2013 study and the academics decided they were going to consider the middle class to be people who earn between 50% of the median income to 150%. What the results showed is that 1/3 of South Africans that way can be considered middle class.

Kate Wilkinson, Africa Check senior researcher
  • A universal range

Credit Swiss did a study and they said if your net-worth is about between R 120 000 and R 1.2 million. Using this they estimated that around 28.5 % of the population was middle class.

Kate Wilkinson, Africa Check senior researcher

With the African Development Bank, they looked at consumption and spending per day, their figure was much lower.

Kate Wilkinson, Africa Check senior researcher
  • Occupation

You are middle class if you are a manager, a senior official, you work for government. The relatively affluent middle class, using that they found that 1/3 of the population could be considered middle class. Looking at the income bracket, that was between R 1 400 and R 10 000.

Kate Wilkinson, Africa Check senior researcher
  • Vulnerability

She refers to a Saldru study and the likelihood of falling into poverty if you are middle class.

You have a certain amount of security and stability that even if you lost your job, it's not just about how much money you earn, it's about how your resources are structured and the opportunities you have. 13.5% of South Africans can be considered middle class.

Kate Wilkinson, Africa Check senior researcher

Click on the link below to listen to the full interview...


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