Index > Publications > Publication Details

Publication Details

Study of the Incidence and Nature of Chronic Poverty and Development Policy in South Africa: An Overview

Michael Aliber


The purpose of this study is fourfold: first, to summarise the current state of knowledge about chronic poverty in South Africa; second, to describe the range of existing governmental and civil society initiatives which address chronic poverty; third, to identify challenges to addressing chronic poverty in South Africa; and fourth, to identify themes for further research. The introduction to the paper is followed by a brief survey of the historical background, current economic context and poverty profile of South Africa. The paper then presents a quantitative and qualitative picture of South Africa's chronically poor. To date, there has been only one data set collected in South Africa allowing an inter-temporal comparison among the same households. This is the KwaZulu-Natal Income Dynamics Study (KIDS), covering one of the provinces rather than the whole country. Because this data set and the analyses based upon it are unique, we discuss them at length. The KIDS data suggest that at least half of households that are poor are chronically poor; that 'ultra-poverty' is not synonymous with chronic poverty; and the there is a large degree of employment volatility experienced by households. The KIDS-based studies as well as other poverty analyses allow identification of groups especially likely to be chronically poor. These include rural households, women-headed households, households effectively headed by elderly people, and former (retrenched) farm workers. Over the next 10 years, however, AIDS orphans and households directly affected by AIDS, will likely figure as the most prominent category of people mired in chronic poverty. The paper goes on to survey the variety of anti-poverty measures of government and civil society. Measured by expenditure, the government's social security system is by far the largest anti-poverty instrument in the country, and probably one of the more functional. The paper suggests that a number of challenges face government and civil society to address poverty in general and chronic poverty in particular. Among these are: first, the absence of a coherent anti-poverty strategy, and particularly one that takes into account the distinction between chronic poverty and transitory poverty; second, the bleak prospects for growth in formal sector employment over the medium terms, together with general uncertainty about how to improve support to the SMME sector; and third, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the effects of which will likely be far more apparent in the next 15 years than to date. The paper concludes with suggested priority areas for further research.

Publication Type(s)

CPRC Working Paper


poverty dynamics policy social protection data South Africa labour

ISBN: 1-904049-02-8


Study of the Incidence and Nature of Chronic Poverty... PDF 214.6 KB

Back to previous page