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What can we learn about inequality in SA from Oxfam's report?

Written by: Megan Ellis

Last month, Oxfam International released a global report on the state on inequality, titled 'Reward Work, Not Wealth'.

The report took a look at the growth of both wealth and inequality in the world, along with the widening wealth gap - sending a strong message about the need for things to change.

A central message is in the report is that hard work is not truly rewarded, but rather, those who are rich continue to get richer while workers make no new wealth.

In total, Oxfam has calculated that approximately two-thirds of billionaire wealth is the product of inheritance, monopoly and cronyism.

Oxfam International, Reward Work Not Wealth Report

The report also found that while new wealth is being created, the vast majority is going to the world's top one percent of wealthiest people. In fact, the bottom 50% of the population saw no increase in wealth at all.

Inequality in South Africa

But what does the report tell us about inequality in South Africa?

It reiterates that South Africa continues to be one of the most unequal societies in the world in terms of wealth and income distribution. This has been known for years, as South Africa has repeatedly topped the index for the GINI coefficient, which measures spending and income inequality across the globe.

However, some startling realisations from the Oxfam report reveal that most South Africans surveyed by researchers don't realise the extent of inequality in the country.

The report found that almost 75% of South Africans underestimate the level of income inequality in the country. For example, the majority of respondents thought that the average CEO in South Africa earns around 28 times more than their average employee. But in reality, the average CEO in SA earns 541 times more than their average employee. This figure is in even greater contrast to what South Africans think CEOs should earn. Oxfam points out that most South Africans think that CEOs should only earn a maximum of nine times the salary of their average employee.

To summarise some of the report's findings, along with other research into SA's inequality, we've created an infographic so that you can get a better picture of the state of inequality in SA:




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