IJR releases Reconciliation Barometer

Survey finds that 21% of respondents view race as biggest division in the country in 2010

2010 South African Reconciliation Barometer released: Economic insecurity threatens 2010 World Cup gains, survey finds

 South Africans are increasingly worried about their economic security putting at risk gains that have been made and leading to significant stress, a major reconciliation survey has found. 

 "Human security concerns have been amongst the country's biggest challenges," said the Institute of Justice's Kate Lefko-Everett and "one could argue one of the areas in which progress has been the slowest".

On the positive side there has been a moderate overall improvement in perceptions of physical security and safety which "goes some way to offset the negative social consequences of physical insecurity", said Lefko-Everett.

An important trend reversal in this year's Institute of Justice and Reconciliation's 10th South African Reconciliation Barometer (SARB) is South Africans' confidence in public institutions (see here - PDF). There was a marked decline in trust in public institutions between 2006 and 2009 across all spheres of government. However, in 2010 this trend has reversed with a reported increase in confidence in most institutions.

Lefko-Everett said the concern felt about the economy and unemployment had likely been influenced by the global recession. In 2010 the third-quarter unemployment rate stood at 25.3 percent.

"Research has confirmed links between economic hardship and insecurity, leading to significant personal stress and even health risks. This also heightens the possibility of social conflict," said Lefko-Everett.

In 2010 South Africans view political party membership and socio economic inequality as the things that divide them the most. A slightly lower percentage of 21% of respondents view race as the biggest division in the country in 2010.

"This survey shows a shift since 2004 with respondents feeling less economically secure. They also feel that their personal and economic situations have declined. South Africans are more pessimistic about employment prospects and are not convinced that their personal financial situations will improve. They feel that their living conditions have declined," said Lefko-Everett. 

They are also uncomfortable about the increasing gap between the wealthy and the poor in South Africa, with South Africa's Gini Coefficient (the global measurement of the gap between rich and poor in countries) being amongst the highest in the world.

According to the survey most South Africans believe that all language groups and religious groups are treated equally, however just over half of all respondents feel other social or cultural groups are treated more favourably than their own. "This raises questions about changes that have to take place in South Africa in order for citizens to believe in equality of treatment and for it to take root," said Lefko-Everett.

The improvement in faith in public institutions is probably due to greater political stability at the executive level of government between 2006 and 2009, and the boost the country received from the successful hosting of the Fifa 2010 Soccer World Cup.

"This is a very positive sign," said Lefko-Everett, "however it is important that public institutions are able to weather and withstand political turbulence, without losing substantial confidence by citizens."

In terms of how South Africans identify themselves and identify with each other after 16 years of democracy the survey found:

  • Most of us identify ourselves primarily by language, ethnic group or race;
  • There is a high level of agreement that primary identity is a source of positive identity making people feel important and good about themselves;
  • 47% of all South Africans believe race relations have improved since 1994, 30% think they have stayed the same and 21% think they have deteriorated;
  • On a typical workday 38% of all South Africans say they often or always speak to someone from another race group, 20% say they sometimes do, while 42% rarely or never do. However, 30% say they would like to talk to people from other race groups more than they do at the moment;
  • Twenty-one percent of South Africans often or always socialise with people of other races in their homes or with friends, 18% say they sometimes do, while 60% rarely or never do;
  • Contact and socialisation between South Africans is highest in wealthy households with a dramatic decrease among poorer households;
  • Since 2003 there has been a slight increase in the percentage of respondents who find people of other races hard to understand, but this should be balanced against an increased approval for greater integration in terms of inter-racial marriages, schools, being employed by someone of a another race, and neighbourhoods.

Issued by on behalf of the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation by HWB Communications, December 14 2010.

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