South Africa’s Black Middle Class Doubles, Studay Shows

The black middle class in South Africa, which held its first all-race elections in 1994, has more than doubled in size over the past eight years, exceeding the number of white people in the same bracket and the amount of money they spend.

The number of black South Africans classified as middle class rose to 4.2 million people last year from 1.7 million in 2004, the University of Cape Town’s Unilever Institute of Strategic Marketing said in a statement. South Africa has a population of 51.8 million people.

“South Africa’s black middle class continues to rapidly expand and is more influential and powerful than ever before,” John Simpson, a director at the Unilever Institute, said in the statement, which was e-mailed yesterday. “The black middle class is helping create a vibrant and stable society by increasing South Africa’s skills base, deepening employment, and widening the tax net.”

South Africans in this group now spend 400 billion rand ($44 billion) annually, more than the 323 billion rand spent by 3 million white people classified as middle class, according to the study. The number of white South African in the group rose from 2.8 million in 2004.

High Unemployment

South Africa’s unemployment rate of 24.9 percent is the highest of more than 30 emerging-market nations tracked by Bloomberg. Retail sales advanced 3.8 percent in February from a year earlier, with South Africa’s Reserve Bank keeping its benchmark interest rate at the lowest level in more than 30 years to spur spending.

To be classified as middle class, respondents had to meet at least two criteria. They include having a household income of between 15,000 rand and 50,000 rand, personal transportation, tertiary education, employment in a white collar job, own or rent a home for more than 4,000 rand a month in a city or town and be 15 years of age or older. The full study will be released next month.

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