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Towards a Decent Living Level Seminar The Parktonian Hotel Braamfontein , Johannesburg 30 July 2014. Objective of Project. It is hoped that this work can contribute to locating the discussion of a decent living level in people’s lived realities.

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Towards a Decent Living Level Seminar

The Parktonian Hotel

Braamfontein, Johannesburg

30 July 2014

objective of project
Objective of Project
  • It is hoped that this work can contribute to locating the discussion of a decent living level in people’s lived realities.
  • As SPII has indicated in past policy briefs, we believe that undertaking a national qualitative and quantitative study and the development of adequate household budgets or minimum income standards would dramatically advance our knowledge in this field.
  • We hope that this is something that the National Planning Commission would lend its support to

This piece of work uses a qualitative approach to ascertain detailed descriptions of:

  • people’s perceptions, knowledge, and experiences about poverty and inequality,
  • their aspirations in terms of improving their living conditions,
  • the notion of what people think should constitute a minimum wage, and
  • their opinion on what should constitute a decent living level, and its cost in South Africa.
methodology cont
Methodology Cont.
  • The focus groups explored the following questions:
    • Are there people in South Africa that are poor and who are they? Are there people in South Africa that are rich and who are they? Why are people poor or rich?
    • In South African society when we say a person, family or household is poor what do you understand this to mean?
    • What are the things that one would require to live a decent standard of living in South Africa? How much would they cost?
    • In the past 12 months what do you think have been the major causes of the increasing cost of living in South Africa?
    • What do you think should be a national minimum wage for South Africa if one was to be introduced in 2014?
methodology cont1
Methodology Cont.
  • Structured questionnaire provided lists of essentials ranging from the number of meals per day to household goods and services to other activities that may depict a decent living standard.
  • To reach a consensus on what essentials were required to make up a decent living level, focus group participants were asked to vote on essentials.
  • All items attracting support from at least 50% of the participants were recorded.
  • Respondents were asked to add to the list of perceived essentials provided by the facilitators and to cost value and thresholds per person per month
  • Study was never intended to be representative, but merely indicative if there is general consensus on the components of a decent standard of life
  • A further limitation of the study is that the focus groups were not considered from random samples, but were conducted in communities in which SPII and partners had already worked which advanced access to participants.
  • The focus groups were undertaken with 83 participants in the following areas:
  • a peri-urban area -Evaton
  • informal settlement -Zandspruit
  • a formal established black African township – Alexander
  • a rural community, Giyani, in Limpopo
  • SAWID (South African Women in Dialogue) hosted a focus group with women in Sandton
  • Data collection involved three months of fieldwork between February and April 2014 using focus group discussions, which was facilitated with questionnaires and subsequently transcribed and analysed
findings overall
Findings - Overall
  • Overall impression from study was that poverty experienced as a dreadful disease in the life of many people. Not having enough, or not having anything at all, is a regular challenge inherent in our society today. Poverty is seen as a social problem that affects every individual in society, but partly due to the contested nature of poverty ‘belongs’ to a selected few.
  • Participants feltthat in South Africa, poor people are predominantly black and that the majority of rich are white.
  • Government employees and business owners categorized among rich people while poor people are associated as being low income earners such as artisans, farm workers and domestic workers.
  • The Giyani youth suggested that white people (due to accumulated resources) have a strong culture of saving, investing and have fixed assets which exempts them from absolute poverty compared to the black majority, who usually borrow due to a lack basic income.
findings causes
Findings - Causes
  • People working in government who indulge in nepotism, bribery and corruption seen to be much better off - in fact, rich - compared to everyone else in the community who have to continue to struggle with poverty and making a better life for themselves.
  • Reflections from the group discussions indicate that most people cannot meet their basic needs and lack basic infrastructures in their communities.
  • For me from what I understand about poverty in South Africa, it’s not about people not having food to eat or something, rather it’s about low incomes which a majority of working South Africans get paid and they contribute towards a situation in which people struggle to meet their daily needs. For example, cost of public transport is very high and people have children to support and take to school, but their salaries/wages are still very low not keeping up with the increasing cost of living. That’s why a majority of South Africans are unhappy with the low wages and most people do not even like the kind of jobs that they find, it’s just about survival that people settle for anything as long as they can survive. Alex Focus Group
findings rural reflection
Findings – Rural reflection
  • Women in Giyani spoke about the need to change traditional gender roles.
  • People in rural areas believed that poverty was worse than in urban areas.
  • Some women reflected that although there is a need for an extra income in the household, their husbands wouldn’t allow them to work. Reasons were given such as ‘other men will see you’ and that ‘other men might take her’
  • There has been an increase in rural to urban migration because more job opportunities exist in the cities.
  • Women also noted that men, especially those who work in the cities (Johannesburg), tend to have city- based families and these deplete the money that they are able to send home.
findings minimum wage
Findings – Minimum Wage
  • Revealed a gap between current wages and those that were viewed as a living wage.
  • All focus groups held most workers are under- paid, settling for less, just to make ends meet or as a participant said “working to work”.
  • Minimum wages in sectoral determination reveals that half of South African workers earned below R3500 per month in 2012.
  • Of all the focus groups held, it was found that the older men and women group proposed a minimum wage level of at least R2, 500 per month, but preferably R4 000.
  • On the other hand, no member of the Youth focus group thought that they should earn anything less than R5 000 per month given the present cost of living in the country today.
  • The Youth focus group in Evaton’s raised the social value of specific jobs in society; Teachers, nurses and social workers were believed to have an important role to play in the growth and development of the country and they should earn a salary that affirms this social value.
  • Also, police officers needed to earn good salaries to avoid being corrupt because their current salaries are seen to make them vulnerable to corruption
findings essential goods for a dll
Findings – Essential Goods for a DLL
  • The need for money, food and jobs topped the lists of the majority of the participants and various other basic needs were identified. However, the responses were subjective reflecting the age differences between youth focus group and older men and older women.
  • The study revealed people’s awareness of vulnerability in difficult situations. The culture of saving is seen as very important by most participants. Unplanned events such as funerals, hospitalization and accidents could happen and the expenses are usually unaffordable. It was suggested that each household should have savings for emergencies of between R500-R1000 per month for ‘rainy days’.
  • clothing came out as important essential required for decent living standard. There is a wise saying that you are ‘addressed as you are dressed’. Most young people preferred to purchase new clothes and dress elegantly compared to the older focus groups members..
findings basic items
Findings – Basic Items
  • Food: maize meal, red meat, cabbage, spinach, beetroot, cooking oil, oranges banana, apple and lettuce
  • Non-food items: electricity, transport, education, clothing, a television set, fridge and personal hygiene costs.
  • A question is whether these foods items listed are considered as nutritious. A regular diet should be comprised of 40-50% carbohydrate (bread, rice), 30-40% protein (diary, meat, chicken, and fish) and 20% fat.
  • Food security was seen as difficult to achieve without a fridge and a source of electricity for its preservation. About half of the respondents (50%) strongly agreed that having three meals a day with fruits and vegetables (costing, ideally, a median of R2 900 per month) is important to have a decent standard of living, while only about 10% proposed that two meals per day would provide decent living (at a cost range of between R900-R1650 for food and R150-R1500 for fruits and vegetables per month)
recommendations for poverty alleviation
Recommendations for poverty alleviation
  • Introduce minimum wage level
  • Increased social grants to cover needs
  • Skills acquisition programmes
  • Job provision/creating employment opportunities
  • Improved educational system
  • Access to information - critical
  • Provision of basic social amenities
  • Reduction in taxes of the poor
  • Increased exportation of goods and services (i.e. greater market access)
  • Increase recycling of products
  • Family planning
  • Spiritual guidance
  • Increase rural development