The poverty level of Indian-origin people in South Africa has consistently decreased over the past two decades from almost 21 per cent to under six per cent, according to official data released on Tuesday. The South African-Indian community, with about 1.4-million people, are not far behind from their white counterparts, who enjoyed special privileges in the apartheid era and have a poverty rate of just one per cent.
Coloured (mixed race) and the majority black Africans are lagging way behind with 41 and 61 per cent respectively, latest results from Statistics South Africa (SSA) show.
Statistician-General Pali Lehohla released the ‘Poverty Trends in South Africa’ report which shows that despite the general decline in poverty between 2006 and 2011, overall poverty level in South Africa rose in 2015.
Black people continued to bear the brunt of poverty but that education remains the key to escaping poverty, Lehohla told reporters.
“Three out of five blacks are poor. Poor whites are (almost) non-existent. Indians moved… we could see this in the numbers when we talked about education. (Indians) caught up with whites in education, poverty dropped and education increased,” Lehola said.
“Unlike the other population groups, the proportion of poor Indians consistently decreased between 2006 and 2015, reporting a decrease of 71.8 per cent.
“It is worthwhile to note that the decrease between 2011 and 2015 was less pronounced than the decrease experienced between 2006 and 2011. Nevertheless, Indians appear to have made strong gains in the war on poverty,” the report said.
Once subjected to restrictive apartheid laws, the first indentured labourers who arrived in the country from 1860 placed huge emphasis on education, pooling resources from their often meagre wages to build their own schools and send children to universities.
This practice, continued by future generations, resulted in poverty levels getting decreased over the past 167 years, with the 20.9 per cent poverty among the 1.4 million citizens of Indian-origin in 2006 having dropped to 5.9 per cent in the latest survey, the report added.