Jobless whites move into shacks faster than blacks

But employed whites are still the country's top income earners. New stats

Although whites remain South Africa's top income-earners, jobless whites are moving into shacks faster than any other race group. And, in another sign government efforts to provide formal housing for the voting masses have failed, the growth in the number of shack dwellers of all races continues to tick up.

These findings were released by the South African Institute of Race Relations, which this week slated black economic empowerment as a failure that was, in effect, encouraging whites to become more entrepreneurial and blacks more dependent on the state.

Whites still earned significantly more than other race groups in South Africa in 2008, according to the latest South Africa Survey, published by the SA Institute of Race Relations. The average per capita income in South Africa in 2008 was R32 559, while per capita income for whites was R135 707, it said.

At the same time Africans had the lowest per capita income in 2008, at R19 496. Indians had the second highest income per head, with the average being R56 173 for that population group. Coloured people's average per capita income in 2008 was R27 569.

But, unemployed whites are having a tough time, and are increasingly moving away from bricks-and-mortar homes into informal dwellings in areas dominated by their black brethren. Their reasons for moving into shacks, are different, from the reasons cited by other groups who make the same move.

Said the SA Institute of Race Relations: "Between 1996 and 2007, the proportion of white people moving into informal dwellings has grown the fastest out of all South Africa's population groups. In the period under review, the number of white households living in informal dwellings rose by 197% from 1 972 to 5 863. Indian households registered a growth of 92%, from 1 871 to 3 600."

The number of white households living in open-space shacks grew by 309% while those moving into backyard shacks rose by 101%. For Indians the corresponding figures were 100% and 81%, it said.

"In contrast, the number of African households residing in informal dwellings grew by a relatively low 25%, albeit from figures of 1 386 637 to 1 732 604 in the period under review. For Coloured households, the increase was from 57 582 to 62 365, or by 8%."

Overall, said the South African Institute of Race Relations, there was a significantly higher growth in the number of households residing in backyard shacks (46%) as opposed to those who erected their structures in open spaces (16%) between 1996 and 2007.

"This might be an attempt in some instances to circumvent eviction laws. This overall trend is reversed in the case of the Indian and white populations in that they experienced more growth in open-space shacks than in backyard informal dwellings."

Mr Kerwin Lebone, a researcher at the Institute, said: "The growth in the number of shack dwellers of all races was testimony to informal dwellings as an enduring option on the country's housing landscape. However, there seemed to be different motivations for the different population groups to move into informal dwellings."

In general, he said, Africans seemed to migrate from rural areas, where the prospects of employment were bleak, to areas that could offer economic advancement. For the Indian and white population groups, the loss of jobs, income, and subsequently homes seems to be the primary impetus. "There are few documented cases where Africans inhabit shacks because they have lost their homes. There are also cases in which Africans who reside in informal dwellings have escaped backyard dwellings where rentals had become exorbitant. For the majority of Africans, though, informal settlements represent a cost-effective manner of breaking into the economic mainstream," said Lebone.

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