A High Standard of Living, Brought Low by AIDS in South Africa

By Erin L. Bacon
2010, Vol. 2 No. 01 | pg. 2/2 |

Between 1994 and 1996, the RDP financed “free medical care for under-six children and pregnant mothers, a school feeding programme [sic], electrification of poor homes and public works projects for unemployed youths” using a several billion rand budget.14 From 1996 to 2000, RDP achievements included “4 million more people given access to clean running water,” 0.9 million housing projects built and 1.1 million housing subsidies distributed, 1.5 million new electrical and 4.2 million new telephone hookups, 3 billion rand spent on “poverty relief,” 600 new health clinics, and the realization of free health care for all pregnant women and children under six.15 South Africa's hunger rate dropped to 2% by 2007.16Overall, 90% of South Africa's welfare budget is spent on social security, but the government attempts to reconcile this imbalance by also offering up to 60% of financing to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) involved in social welfare and/or charity, like the Child and Family Welfare Society.17

South Africa still has a long way to go in order to provide a decent standard of living for all of its citizens. In the CIA's Gini index calculations of income disparity, last updated on 4 December 2008, South Africa had the largest gap between rich and poor of all the countries surveyed, with a coefficient of 65.18 The South African government allocated 50.7 billion rand to education in 2001, one of the largest single expenditure items, and 14.8% of the total budget went to education, nutrition, and health care combined; health care spending increased from 24.8 billion rand in 1997 to 32.3 billion four years later, with the Ministry of Health's universal immunization campaign at the forefront.19 Nonetheless, 19 million South Africans still had no health insurance in 2001, and only about 56% of health clinics have the equipment and facilities to test for HIV/AIDS. Like in many more developed Western countries as well, South Africa has a devastating shortage of trained personnel, especially teachers, hospital staff, and social workers, which offsets the substantial budgetary outlays for welfare reforms.

In a General Household Survey conducted in 2007 by the South African government, 87.8% of the population indicated satisfaction with services in the public sector.20 The legacy of inequality and segregation to be overcome in the post-apartheid period is a huge obstacle to the creation of a modernized, economically successful, and “fair” society, but it is important to remember that only 14 years have passed since the current regime's inception. In comparison to even the “miracles” of the South Asian tigers, Japan, and China in the past half-century, South Africa is advancing at an incredible rate. With continued aid from the UN Development Program and the US Agency for International Development, South Africa can be expected to accelerate its progress in the 21st century.21

We have seen that South Africans are, on the whole, very satisfied with their public services, which have made great strides in reducing the effects of poverty and constitute a major governmental investment. And yet South Africa's standard of living, as measured by HDI, is lower than countries on a similar economic footing.

The key is the inclusion in the HDI variable of life expectancy. Sub-Saharan Africa's life expectancy figures have been devastated by the AIDS epidemic, which in South Africa affects between 15 and 34 percent of the adult population, according to the Center for Disease Control, as well as millions of children.22

Sub-Saharan Africa is the only region of the world where the epidemic has reached this level, and thus, the only region where life expectancy is skewed in this manner and to this degree. South Africa has the highest levels of HIV infection in the world, and a population decimated by the disease. If one were to control for life expectancy, South Africa's literacy and school enrollment rates would be on par with, or superior to, nations with similar PPP, especially oil-producing nations in the Middle East such as Iran (77% adult literacy in Iran compared to 86.4% in South Africa, although Iran's PPP is $1240 higher).23

No doubt if we were able to isolate non-HIV carriers in the South African population, their HDI could also be expected to increase. As the South African government now recognizes, HIV/AIDS must be brought under control before it may take its place among the highly developed nations of the world. South Africa has started to lay the foundation for effective social welfare programs, in spite of the setbacks of apartheid. What it lacks today is the means to destroy the “big bad wolf” that keeps knocking down its walls.


Endnotes

1.) United Nations. “Human Rights: Historical Images of Apartheid in South Africa.”

2.) Thabo Mbeki, “State of the Nation Address.” 8 February 2008.

3.) Amartya Sen, “The Economics of Life and Death.” Scientific American (May 1993), p. 40.

4.) University of Connecticut. “Comparing Standards of Living in the Global Economy.”

5.) World Bank. “Gross National Income Per Capita 2007, Atlas method and PPP.” 6.) United Nations Development Program. “The Human Development Index – Going Beyond Income.”

7.) United Nations Development Program. “2007/2008 Human Development Index Rankings.”

8.) Ibid.

9.) World Bank. “Sub-Saharan Africa: Selected World Development Indicators.”

10.) Ernest Harsch. “South Africa's Mounting AIDs Toll.” Africa Recovery (January 2001), p. 19.

11.) Maren Bak, “Can Developmental Social Welfare Change an Unfair World? The South African Experience.” International Social Work 47:1, p. 82.

12.) B.M. Quenum, “Per Capita Gross National Product (GNP) Versus Parity Purchasing Power (PPP).” Business Africa 59:1 (March-April 2004).

13.) South African Constitution (1996). Chapter 2, Sections 26-29. Quote from Section 26, clause 2.

14.) Ernest Harsch, “South Africa Tackles Social Iniquities.” Africa Recovery (January 2001), p. 13.

15.) Ibid, p. 14.

16.) “P0318 – General Household Survey 2007.”

17.) Bak, p. 86 and 88.

18.) Central Intelligence Agency. “Field Listing – Distribution of Family Income – Gini Index.” The World Factbook.

19.) Harsch, “Social Iniquities,” p. 17-18.

20.) “General Household Survey.”

21.) “Social Iniquities,” p. 17.

22.) US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Prevention of Specific Infectious Diseases.”

23.) Central Intelligence Agency. “Iran.”

Suggested Reading from Inquiries Journal

This proverb sadly encapsulates the reality of existence for the Zulu people in the last two centuries. Ripped from their positions of power and tossed into the pits of despair, life as they once knew it changed drastically... MORE»
Advertisement
The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) originated in Africa. According to current estimates, the disease first infected humans in the 1930s, spreading outward in its formative years to the world beyond.6:1 It was nevertheless not until 1983 that the virus was first identified in France,13 by which time the virus was already well... MORE»
Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) has ravaged sub-Saharan Africa in the decades since its first recorded case. The disease has reached epidemic levels in many regions, with millions of new cases diagnosed each year... MORE»
In 1980, Robert Mugabe became the first leader of a free Zimbabwe after fighting a bitter and ultimately successful struggle against white minority rule in Rhodesia. Independence and the country's role as the "breadbasket" of southern Africa brought hope to millions of black Zimbabweans who felt that they finally controlled their... MORE»
Submit to Inquiries Journal, Get a Decision in 10-Days

Inquiries Journal provides undergraduate and graduate students around the world a platform for the wide dissemination of academic work over a range of core disciplines.

Representing the work of students from hundreds of institutions around the globe, Inquiries Journal's large database of academic articles is completely free. Learn more | Blog | Submit

Follow IJ

Latest in International Affairs

2022, Vol. 14 No. 04
With over 10 million stateless people globally, statelessness has increasingly become a pressing issue in international law. The production of statelessness occurs across multiple lines including technical loopholes, state succession, and discriminatory... Read Article »
2021, Vol. 13 No. 09
The COVID-19 crisis has exacerbated current global challenges. However, this article argues that this time of crisis can also be a unique opportunity for the existing global economic institutions - G20, WTO, IMF, and World Bank (WB) - to make the... Read Article »
2021, Vol. 13 No. 02
On January 1st, 1959, a small band of Cuban rebels shocked the world, overthrowing the American-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista. These rebels were especially known for their guerrilla tactics and their leaders, such as Fidel Castro and Ernesto... Read Article »
2021, Vol. 13 No. 01
Israel has increased the nation’s security presence around the Gaza Strip and in the West Bank. Here, the research project analyzes how transaction costs resulting from Israeli security policy impact the output of manufacturing activities... Read Article »
2020, Vol. 12 No. 09
The necessity of international relief is unending as new crises continue to emerge across the world. International aid plays a crucial role in shaping how affected communities rebuild after a crisis. However, humanitarian aid often results in a... Read Article »
2019, Vol. 11 No. 10
This article aims to present the biopiracy of traditional knowledge from India by the United States, which has occurred directly through the use of patent law and indirectly through economic power and cultural imperialism. Throughout this essay,... Read Article »
2018, Vol. 10 No. 10
After joining the European Union (EU) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 2004, Estonians felt secure and in charge of their future. However, following the 2007 Bronze Horseman incident in the Estonian capital of Tallinn which included... Read Article »

What are you looking for?

FROM OUR BLOG

Writing a Graduate School Personal Statement
Finding Balance in Graduate School
Presentation Tips 101 (Video)