South Africa most unequal country in the world: Report

Race plays key factor in a society where 10 percent of population owns more than 80 percent of wealth, World Bank says.

South Africa is the most unequal country in the world, with race playing a determining factor in a society where 10 percent of the population owns more than 80 percent of the wealth, a World Bank report has said.

“South Africa… is the most unequal country in the world, ranking first among 164 countries,” the Washington-based institution said Wednesday in a report, Inequality in Southern Africa.

Almost three decades after the end of apartheid, “race remains a key driver of high inequality in South Africa, due to its impact on education and the labor market,” it said.

When race is considered as a factor in income disparities, the report added, “its contribution to income inequality amounts to 41 percent, while contribution of education is reduced to 30 percent.

“The legacy of colonialism and apartheid, rooted in racial and spatial segregation, continues to reinforce inequality.”

The country’s neighbours that make up the rest of the Southern African Customs Union – Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho and Namibia – established in 1910, all finish higher on the list of the most unequal countries in the world.

In the region, women earn on average 30 percent less than men with the same level of education with the pay gap as wide as 38 percent in Namibia and South Africa.

The uneven distribution of agricultural land is also a factor driving inequality, especially in rural areas.

In Namibia, 70 percent of the 39.7 million hectares (98.1 million acres) of commercial agricultural land “still belong to Namibians of European descent”, the World Bank said.

The report was produced before the COVID-19 pandemic and its authors used the Gini coefficient – an indicator of income inequality – to rank countries.

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