Class, Race, and Inequality in South Africa

Class, Race, and Inequality in South Africa

Jeremy Seekings
Nicoli Nattrass
Copyright Date: 2005
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 464
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  • Book Info
    Class, Race, and Inequality in South Africa
    Book Description:

    The distribution of incomes in South Africa in 2004, ten years after the transition to democracy, was probably more unequal than it had been under apartheid. In this book, Jeremy Seekings and Nicoli Nattrass explain why this is so, offering a detailed and comprehensive analysis of inequality in South Africa from the midtwentieth century to the early twenty-first century. They show that the basis of inequality shifted in the last decades of the twentieth century from race to class. Formal deracialization of public policy did not reduce the actual disadvantages experienced by the poor nor the advantages of the rich. The fundamental continuity in patterns of advantage and disadvantage resulted from underlying continuities in public policy, or what Seekings and Nattrass call the "distributional regime." The post-apartheid distributional regime continues to divide South Africans into insiders and outsiders. The insiders, now increasingly multiracial, enjoy good access to well-paid, skilled jobs; the outsiders lack skills and employment.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-12875-8
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Authors’ Note
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. Chapter 1 Introduction: States, Markets, and Inequality
    (pp. 1-48)

    The relation between public policy and economic inequality has been the focus of considerable research in recent years. The foundation for much of this work is Esping-Andersen’sThree Worlds of Welfare Capitalism(1990). Esping-Andersen identified three distinct patterns of state intervention in advanced capitalist countries. In each case, the state intervened with social and (to a lesser extent) labour-market policies to reduce inequality, but the form of that intervention differed in terms of the scale of public expenditure and the extent to which the state displaced the market and the family in determining the incomes and welfare of its citizens....

  6. Chapter 2 South African Society on the Eve of Apartheid
    (pp. 49-89)

    Apartheid policies of systematic racial discrimination and segregation had a deep and enduring influence on inequality in South Africa. But inequality predated apartheid, and the core components of its distributional regime predated the system itself. By 1948, the state had developed a set of policies concerning welfare, the labour market, and the growth path that structured patterns of inequality. State polices shaped but did not determine the massive social and economic changes in South African societies. The nation at this time was still a largely agrarian society, albeit one in which a large part of the rural population had become...

  7. Chapter 3 Social Change and Income Inequality Under Apartheid
    (pp. 90-127)

    South African society was transformed during the four decades of apartheid. Processes of class formation remade town and countryside. The economy grew rapidly with industrialisation and the growth of services (including those in the public sector). A large, settled urban African working class was formed, and a significant African middle class emerged. As important, large numbers of African families lost access to land and became entirely (rather than primarily) dependent on wages. Throughout this period inequality remained at a high level. In the 1950s and 1960s this was clearly due in part to the direct effects of public policies of...

  8. Chapter 4 Apartheid as a Distributional Regime
    (pp. 128-164)

    The apartheid distributional regime was built on foundations laid in the first half of the twentieth century, but the 1948 election nonetheless represented an important watershed. The reforms of 1944–46 promised to take South Africa along the route followed by most forms of welfare capitalism in more fully developed democratic countries: racial restrictions would probably gradually loosen and, as the economy grew, a rising share of GDP would be spent by the state on education, health, and social security. Even if the bold vision of the Social Security Committee had been scaled down, the result would probably have been...

  9. Chapter 5 The Rise of Unemployment Under Apartheid
    (pp. 165-187)

    The most important change in the lives of many ordinary South Africans during the apartheid decades was the rise of widespread open unemployment. At the start of apartheid, unemployment had not been an issue. On the contrary, as we saw in Chapter 4, the South African economy then was plagued by chronic labour shortages, and employers and the state worried about securing sufficient labour. South Africa experienced the typical sub-Saharan problem of labourconstrained development. As Karshenas (2001) has argued, the Lewis model of development with “unlimited” supplies of labour did not apply in sub-Saharan Africa: either a labour supply had...

  10. Chapter 6 Income Inequality at Apartheid’s End
    (pp. 188-235)

    Under apartheid, inequality in the distribution of incomes in South Africa remained acute despite economic growth. At the top end of the income scale, some South Africans lived lives of luxury, with swimming pools, holiday homes, and imported sports cars in the garage. At the bottom end, many lived in deep poverty. The Gini coefficient for the distribution of income has been estimated at between 0.58 and 0.68, depending on the precise data used (McGrath and Whiteford 1994; Whiteford, Posel, and Kelatwang 1995; Whiteford and van Seventer 2000; World Bank 1995b, 7; World Bank 1996, 56). This puts South Africa...

  11. Chapter 7 Social Stratification and Income Inequality at the End of Apartheid
    (pp. 236-270)

    In previous chapters we have argued that the primary basis of inequality shifted from race to class under apartheid. Paradoxically, as apartheid drew to a close, most scholars retreated from class analysis. When class was discussed, it was generally without any empirical analysis of the class structure, despite the availability after 1993 of new sources of data. This chapter uses the 1993 PSLSD data to map the class structure of South Africa at the end of the apartheid era. Surveys such as the PSLSD provide the best available data, but the fact that these surveys were not designed for the...

  12. Chapter 8 Did the Unemployed Constitute an Underclass?
    (pp. 271-299)

    At the end of the apartheid era, approximately four million adults were unemployed and almost half of the population lived in households in which someone was unemployed. In previous chapters we argued that the growth in unemployment served to deepen inequality within the African population, contributing to the shift from race to class. But how should we make sense of the class position of the unemployed? Did they or some of their number constitute a separate class, or did they fall into the same classes as working people? In this chapter we argue that one segment of the unemployed constituted...

  13. Chapter 9 Income Inequality After Apartheid
    (pp. 300-339)

    By the end of the apartheid era, South African households were rich or poor according primarily to the number and earnings of wage earners, and earnings in turn depended overwhelmingly on education and skill. The affluence of white South Africans was based not on continuing racial discrimination but rather on the enduring legacy of past discrimination, especially in public education. White South Africans were reaping the benefits of the skills and credentials they had acquired in the past and that they could pass onto their children even when public education was deracialised. Privileges could be reproduced on the basis of...

  14. Chapter 10 The Post-Apartheid Distributional Regime
    (pp. 340-375)

    In the decade following the end of apartheid, there was little change in the overall level of income inequality; if anything, inequality increased after several decades of stability. At the same time, the general trends that characterised the late apartheid period continued. Interracial income inequality continued to decline but intraracial inequality continued to grow. Expanding opportunities in high-paying occupations meant that African people comprised a rising proportion of the highest income deciles. At the same time, growing unemployment underpinned persistent and perhaps deepening poverty, especially in rural areas. Households lacking social and human capital were effectively shut out of the...

  15. Chapter 11 Transforming the Distributional Regime
    (pp. 376-400)

    The new South Africa was born in 1994 amid great hope for the future: the demise of apartheid would surely lead to policies that addressed the economic and social needs of the poor. Ten years later, the record was disappointing, with income inequality persisting and perhaps worsening. This was primarily due, we argue, to the strong continuities between the apartheid distributional regime and the postapartheid distributional regime.

    Policies changed in many important ways after the dark days of grand apartheid. Most important, South Africa’s labour and welfare policies were deracialised beginning in the late apartheid period; the process was completed...

  16. Notes
    (pp. 401-404)
  17. References
    (pp. 405-438)
  18. Index
    (pp. 439-446)