South African Outlook
Decline in both measures of human welfare has been slow.
August 7th, 2012
“South Africa has the necessary policies and resources to improve human resource indicators such as under-five mortality and maternal mortality. However, it lacks the implementation capacity to translate these policies into broad-based results. Decline in both measures of human welfare has been slow. Substantial progress, however, has been made in fighting malnutrition, mother-to-child transmission of HIV, as well as increased immunization coverage and access to free health care. The national mother-to-child HIV transmission rate fell to 3.5% in 2010 from 8.5% in 2009.”
These are among the key findings of the just published Africa Outlook report in its South Africa-specific section. The report was co-written by the African Development Bank, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Development Centre, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and the UN Development Programme (UNDP).
South Africa has effectively scaled up the implementation of national HIV and AIDS initiatives, providing voluntary counselling and testing in more than 95% of health facilities and an increase in the provision of anti-retroviral (ARV) therapy, and the introduction of a dual therapy policy in for the prevention of mother-to-child transmission.
However, although it has the largest ARV treatment programme in the world, the country has not achieved the goal of universal access to ARV treatment and it is unlikely to achieve the goal of halting and reversing the spread of HIV and tuberculosis by 2015.
South Africa has achieved the goal of universal access to primary education before the year 2015, covering children up to the age of 13 who constitute nearly 30% of the country’s population. School attendance for those aged 7-13 reached 98.4% for boys and 98.8% for girls in 2009, while the functional literacy rate also rose from 88% in 1999 to 91% in 2009.
The government’s anti-poverty strategy identifies the most vulnerable and the poorest sections of the society and provides a comprehensive social security programme that combines income support with a social wage package.
In 2011 social welfare grants supported about 15.2 million South Africans, up from 2.5 million in 1998. The grants have been expanded in recent years by raising the threshold for the child support grant until a child’s 18th birthday.
In 2010/11 government spent 10.9% of the total budget, or 3.4% of GDP, on social grants while spending on education, grants, health clinics, hospitals and subsidised housing increased from 10% of GDP in 2006 to 15% in 2009.
As a result of active government intervention in poverty alleviation, the proportion of people living on less than US$1 per day fell from 11.0% to 5.0% between 1994 and 2010. With this achievement, South Africa more than halved the population living in extreme poverty, thus meeting Mellinium Development Goal 1 (MDG).
The fall in poverty at higher levels of incomes, such as US$2.50 a day, has been slow.
The government adopted a comprehensive approach to eradicating extreme poverty and hunger through a safety net programme. In 2010 the no-fee school policy was extended from the poorest 40% of pupils to the poorest 60%. As a result 8.1 million students in 20 000 schools had access to free education.
Moreover, about 2.8 million and 11.5 million housing units received free basic electricity and water services respectively during the 2008 financial year.
Inequality and labour
In spite of these measures, the report found that South Africa remains one of the most unequal societies in the world.
Since 1994 South Africa has ratified 12 International Labour Organization (ILO) conventions, including ILO convention 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour and seven other conventions considered fundamental to the rights of human beings at work. The government has passed a number of laws that conform to most of the conventions and ensure that these legislation and conventions are enforced.
Because of structural constraints, job creation has lagged behind the economic recovery that started in 2010.
Between the fourth quarter of 2008 and the third quarter of 2010, when the recession bottomed out, the economy shed over 1 million jobs. The overall unemployment rate rose correspondingly from 21.9% to 25.3% and youth unemployment rose steeply from 45.5% to 50.5%.
From late 2010, however, the economy began reclaiming some of the lost jobs.
The report found that South Africa has made significant progress in addressing gender disparities in health and education services.
Basic antenatal care services were provided in 79.4% of all public health facilities in fiscal year 2010/11.
The National Health Amendment Bill was enacted in January 2011 to give effect to the core standards and to enforce them in the health system. The country has also made progress in respect of girls’ participation in secondary schooling with the ratio of female to male secondary enrolment reaching 104.8% in 2009. Some progress has also been made in tertiary education enrolment.
The share of women in non-agricultural wage employment also increased in recent years from 44% in 2005 to 45% in 2010. However, while poverty has been halved for both genders, the proportion of women living below US$1 a day remains high compared to that of males.
Approximately 70% of informal businesses are owned and/or controlled by women.
South Africa has signed and ratified the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and various international human rights instruments, treaties and conventions and enacted a number of laws to protect women from violence and abuse.
Nevertheless, gender violence remains very high.
The representation of women in the South African Parliament increased from 27.8% in 1994 to 44.0% in 2009; it rose from 25.4% to 42.4% in provincial legislatures and stands currently at about 40% in local government.
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