Back to Africa Check

No data shows one million white people living in poverty in South Africa

“I hope that this will open not only your eyes, but also your hearts!” says a tweet from 2 July 2019. It claims that 1 million white people in South Africa “live in extreme poverty”. 

But the tweet’s statistics are incorrect, according to the most recent data on poverty in South Africa.

Three poverty lines

South Africa has three poverty lines, which “capture different degrees of poverty and allow the country to measure and monitor poverty at different levels”. 

This is according to Statistics South Africa, the national statistical agency. Stats SA uses data on the money people spend to calculate the number of people living in poverty.

In 2015, the upper-bound poverty line – the highest measure – was set at R992 a month. A person who spent less than that each month was considered to be living in poverty. 

Based on this, an estimated 30.4 million people in South Africa lived in poverty. This was equal to 55.5% of the population. 

Fewer than 50,000 white people in poverty

A racial breakdown of the data does not show that a million white people live in poverty. In fact, the estimate is magnitudes lower at 47,494. This represents just 1% of the white population.

People living in poverty in South Africa by population group (2015)
Population groupNumber% of population group
South Africa30,383,78855.5%

Source: Statistics South Africa’s Poverty Trends in South Africa (2015)

In comparison, 64.2% of the black population and 41.3% of the coloured population live in poverty. – Africa Check


Republish our content for free

We believe that everyone needs the facts.

You can republish the text of this article free of charge, both online and in print. However, we ask that you pay attention to these simple guidelines. In a nutshell:

1. Do not include images, as in most cases we do not own the copyright.

2. Please do not edit the article.

3. Make sure you credit "Africa Check" in the byline and don't forget to mention that the article was originally published on

For publishers: what to do if your post is rated false

A fact-checker has rated your Facebook or Instagram post as “false”, “altered”, “partly false” or “missing context”. This could have serious consequences. What do you do?

Click on our guide for the steps you should follow.

Publishers guide

Africa Check teams up with Facebook

Africa Check is a partner in Meta's third-party fact-checking programme to help stop the spread of false information on social media.

The content we rate as “false” will be downgraded on Facebook and Instagram. This means fewer people will see it.

You can also help identify false information on Facebook. This guide explains how.

Add new comment

Restricted HTML

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a href hreflang> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote cite> <code> <ul type> <ol start type> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <h2 id> <h3 id> <h4 id> <h5 id> <h6 id>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.
limit: 600 characters

Want to keep reading our fact-checks?

We will never charge you for verified, reliable information. Help us keep it that way by supporting our work.

Become a newsletter subscriber

Support independent fact-checking in Africa.