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Trend spotting: Focus on the ever increasing black middle class

October 4, 2014

Statistics South Africa uses indicators that would increase the size of the middle class even more: access to formal housing, electricity, indoor plumbing, a phone and the use of gas or electricity as a main cooking.

The Statistics South Africa Census of 2011 showed that there were about 4,586,838 white people in South Africa, amounting to 8.9% of the country’s population. This is a 6.8% increase since the 2001 census. Yet in 2014 an estimated 4,554,800 South Africans are racially classified as being “white” (representing a decrease of 0.5% or 8.4% of South Africa’s population).

South Africa’s middle class represents households earning between R15 000 and R50 000, with their own transport, a tertiary education, employment in a white-collar job and owning their home or spending more than R4 000 a month on rent.

The black middle class has increased in size from 1.7 million in 2004 to an estimated 4.2 million today. Only 3 percent, or about 120 000 black middle class South Africans live in the Western Cape, mainly in Cape Town. Gauteng, meanwhile, had 46 percent, or about 2 million black South Africans. According to a Unilever Institute for Strategic Marketing study, the black middle class collective spend more than R400bn annually.

This is more than the R380bn spent by the 2.8 million whites middle class adults. The study defined middle class as a black adult, older than 16, and living in a household with a combined monthly income of between R16 000 and R50 000. BEE had also contributed, as had the early high economic growth of the 2000s.

By the end of 2015, the size of the black middle class will surpass the size of the white population in South Africa.

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