Life gets better for South Africans


3 September 2009

South Africans’ living conditions are steadily improving, according to Statistics South Africa’s latest General Household Survey, which registered increases in school attendance, satisfaction with health services, and ownership of houses, televisions and – no surprises here – mobile phones.

Access to electricity and proper sanitation has also improved, the survey found, although piped water services are lagging. Hunger levels remain low, while the number of South Africans receiving state social grants has more than tripled since 2002.

The annual survey, which measured various aspects of the living circumstances of South African households for the year 2008, was released on Wednesday.




The survey found that the percentage of South African children attending primary school had grown substantially since 2002 – although still not enough to meet the country’s early childhood development goals for 2010.

At the other end of the spectrum, the percentage of secondary school students who completed grade 12 increased from 22.8% in 2002 to 24.6% in 2008, while the proportion of adults with no formal education decreased over the same period, from 10.3% to 8.8%.

According to the survey, between 2002 and 2008:


  • The percentage of children aged 5-9 who are attending school increased from 79.9% to 88.6%.


  • The percentage of 5-year-olds attending school increased from 40.4% to 63.3%.


  • The percentage of 6-year-olds attending school increased from 70.9% to 87.1%.


Among children aged 7 years and above, lack of money for fees remained the most common reason given for not attending school.


Health care


Statistics South Africa’s survey recorded higher levels of satisfaction with public health services, up from 81.1% of people who used these services in 2002 to 91.2% in 2008.

In the private sector, satisfaction levels increased slightly over the same period, from 92.8% to 95.6%.

Medical aid coverage remained the lowest among black South Africans, with only 8.4% of people covered in 2008, compared to 68.5% of the white population.


Housing and household assets


According to the survey, the overall percentage of households living in informal dwellings increased marginally from 2002 to 2008, from 13.1% to 13.4%. However, this was an improvement on the 15.9% recorded in 2005.

There was also continued growth in ownership among those occupying formal separate dwellings, from 62.6% in 2002 to 70.1% in 2008. And over the same period, television ownership increased from 59.3% to 72.4%, while ownership of mobile phones more than doubled, from 37.6% to 79.1%.


Electricity, water, sanitation


Of all the basic services, access to a connection to the mains electricity supply improved the most, the survey found, increasing from 77.4% of households in 2002 to 82.6% in 2008.

However, the percentage of households receiving piped water supplies from their local municipalities decreased from 78.9% in 2004 to 74.8% in 2008.

The percentage of households with no toilet facility, or having to use bucket toilets, declined from 12.5% in 2002 to 7.7% in 2008. At the same time, the percentage of households using municipal refuse disposal services increased steadily, from 58.8% to 60.5%.


Hunger, social grants, child runaways


Reported levels of hunger in 2008 were very close to those of 2006 and slightly up from those of 2007, the survey found. However, hunger levels remained low, at 2.4% for adults and 2.5% for children – compared to the 6.8% of households who said their children and adults suffered from hunger in 2002.

According to the survey, the percentage of South Africans receiving welfare grants from the state more than tripled between 2002 and 2008, from 3.7% to 13.3%.

At the same time, the 2008 survey recorded the highest level of children aged 5-17 who had left their homes and whose whereabouts were unknown, with 8.4% of households affected in 2008 compared to 4.5% in 2002.

SAinfo reporter



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