Original Research

Levels of poverty and the poverty gap in rural Limpopo

R. R. Mears, P. F. Blaauw
Acta Commercii | Vol 10, No 1 | a118 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ac.v10i1.118 | © 2010 R. R. Mears, P. F. Blaauw | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 06 December 2010 | Published: 06 December 2010

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R. R. Mears, University of Johannesburg, South Africa
P. F. Blaauw, University of Johannesburg, South Africa

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Abstract

Purpose/objectives: The aim of this paper is to obtain a better understanding of the income and expenditure patterns of selected deep rural villages. This is done by measuring the level of poverty and/or the poverty gap of 132 households in Limpopo, one of the poorest provinces in South Africa.

Problem investigated: The Millennium Declaration symbolises the commitment to end extreme poverty, but limited data is available for rural areas to inform policy decisions. The relative income shares for individuals, households and percentile groups within a population provide the best information on poverty for policy formulation. The nature and size distribution of income are therefore central to analysing the poverty problem within low-income areas. The survey area is one of the poorest areas in South Africa, and shows what data is needed to measure and understand the extent of poverty.

Design/Method/Approach: A representative sample of 132 households was drawn, which represents 6,9 percent of the estimated 1900 households in selected villages of rural Limpopo. A total of 740 household members were represented in the survey, with an average of 5,6 members per household.

Originality/Value: Although this is a relatively small sample, it generated much-needed data on this very poor area of South Africa. Detailed empirical data on the income and expenditure patterns is not available, especially for rural areas. The socio-economic data from this research supported an important health project of the Water and Health Research Unit (WHRU) of the University of Johannesburg. The article also lays the foundation for further research in this field of study, facilitating engagement with a number of related debates such as those about satisfaction of life, vulnerability to poverty, the geography of deprivation and the mapping of poverty.

Conclusion: The main finding is that the government provides for many needs of the poor, especially in the deep rural areas. Only 18 percent of the sample households did not receive a state grant in 2007. This was an injection of R88 800 or 33,4 percent of the total income per month, which excludes the social wage in terms of free basic water, electricity, subsidised or free housing, health care subsidies and other support to poor people and rural communities. Of the 485 non-economically active people in the sample, more than 364 or 75 percent receive an income, mainly in the form of state grants. Education suggests itself as a route out of poverty, rather than the child grant and other subsidies that encourage poor people to have more children. Poor couples and single-member households fall through the safety net, because they do not qualify for state grants and have no children yet.


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