Jobs, housing, crime top voters’ concerns
But the prominence of these issues varies considerably by province with totally different issues
THE issues uppermost in voters’ minds in the coming local government polls will depend to a large extent on the part of the country in which they live, a survey by Stats SA shows.
Nationally, the top five challenges in municipalities, according to their residents, were: the lack of a safe and reliable water supply; the lack of or inadequate employment opportunities; the cost of electricity; inadequate housing; and violence and crime – in that order.
But the prominence of these issues varied considerably by province, with concerns about a safe and reliable water supply not featuring at all for households in Gauteng and the Western Cape, while it was the number one concern in Limpopo (43.9 percent of respondents), North West ( 33.4 percent), Mpumalanga ( 30.6 percent), KwaZulu- Natal ( 23 percent), Eastern Cape ( 22.7 percent), Free State (20.8 percent) and Northern Cape (17.3 percent).
By contrast, the cost of electricity was the dominant concern of Gauteng (16.2 percent) and Western Cape (18.7 percent) residents, while not featuring among the top five concerns in the Free State and North West, and concerning only 12.4 percent of residents in the Northern Cape, 12.1 percent in KwaZulu-Natal, 8.8 percent in the Eastern Cape, 7 percent in Mpumalanga and 4.7 percent in Limpopo.
Scarcity of jobs was a concern common to all provinces, on the other hand, featuring most strongly in KwaZulu-Natal (14.4 percent), Free State (13.8 percent), and Mpumalanga and Gauteng, both at 13.2 percent.
Yet the Community Survey 2016 showed there has been continuous improvement in the quality of services and standards of living for all South Africans, despite the bleak economic performance and rising unemployment of the past few years.
For example, the number of households living in formal housing has increased steadily, from a low of 65.1 percent in 1996, through 77.6 percent in 2011, to 79.2 percent in the latest survey, conducted in March and sampling about 1.3 million households.
Rising affluence is also evident in the increase in the number of households owning their homes and having paid off the bond (54.7 percent in 2016, compared to 41.3 percent in 2001), and ownership of electronic goods like fridges (81.8 percent in 2016 compared to 68.4 percent in 2011), stoves (84.4 percent compared to 77 percent) and televisions (83.4 percent compared to 74.5 percent).
Strikingly, the survey suggests that these new TV owners are also flocking to satellite, with 41.4 percent of households now owning a DStv decoder, compared to 25.8 percent in 2011.
Significant improvements are reflected in access to flushing toilets connected to sewerage (60.6 percent compared to 49.1 percent in 2001), access to piped water (from 9 million households in 1996 to 16.9 million in 2016), and use of electricity for cooking(82.7 percent in 2016 compared to 47.4 percent in 1996).
The average number of members of a household has also declined, from 4.5 members per household in 1996 to 3.3 in 2016, as the total number of households has increased, from 9 million in 1996 to 16.9 million today – indicating a trend towards smaller households on average.
Access to education and highest level of educational attainment have also improved significantly with 17.2 million attending an educational institution this year, compared to 12.8 million in 1996, and 1.23 million having obtained at least a bachelor’s degree, compared to 410 686 in 1996.