Education: A roadmap out of poverty?

Education: A roadmap out of poverty?

Findings from the Poverty Trends in South Africa report released by Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) on Thursday showed a strong link between increased level of education and decreased levels of poverty. While the overall level of poverty has declined between 2006 and 2011, there are stark differences when one examines poverty status according to the education status of individuals.

In 2011, two-thirds of those who had no education were living in poverty. This decreased to 60% for those who had some primary, and 55% for those who had completed primary school. The level dropped to 44% for those who had some secondary schooling, and dropped even further to 23,6% for those who had completed matric. Only 1 in 20 people who had some form of higher education were living in poverty in 2011.

A higher level of education does not, however, cushion individuals from the impact of economics, as demonstrated by the fact that in 2009, in the midst of the global recession, 1 in 10 people with some form of higher education were living in poverty.

A better education clearly opens the door to better economic prospects. A matric certificate is the only recognised school leaving qualification in South Africa and is a pre-requisite for further study and acceptance into organisations such as the Defense Force or the South African Police Services.

This is borne out by labour market statistics. In South Africa, the unemployment rate of 15-24 year olds with primary education or less is 50%; for those with tertiary level education, the unemployment rate is 37%. The situation is different for those aged 25+; 20% of this group who have primary education are unemployed, while only 7% of those with tertiary level education are unemployed.

Education alone cannot eradicate poverty; rather, education coupled with greater job opportunities in the economy will be the roadmap out of poverty.

This is only one of the many findings contained in the full report, which can be downloaded here.