Informal urban and traditional rural women-led households feel the biggest economic pinch from the high cost to communicate in South Africa.

This was revealed in the results of Statistics South Africa’s (StatsSA) Living Conditions of Households (LCS) in South Africa, 2014/2015 survey.

The survey, conducted from August/September/October in one year though to the the same month of the next, provides information on the living circumstances of households in South Africa with special reference to spending patterns of households on different expenditure items.

The 2014/15 LCH was conducted from 13th October 2014 to 25th October 2015.

Household spend vs Proportion to income

With regards to the cost to communicate, while survey results reveal that white male-led households in urban formal areas spend up to five times more on communication (telephone, internet, mobile etc.) black women-led households in urban informal and rural areas spend the highest amount on communication proportionate to their income.

In simple terms, this means that while white male-led households spend almost R11 000 a month, this only accounts for 3.12% of their total income expenditure, leaving them with more to spend on other needs and wants.

On the other hand, black women-led household spend around R2 400, but this accounts for 3.56% of their total income expenditure, leaving them with less spend on other things.

This data confirms other research that states the price of airtime, data and fixed internet impacts on the poor, un-urbanised population the most, often eating into money that could be used for needs such as food, clothing, transport etc.

More spent on communication than on health and education combined

When looking at how much South Africans spend on communication on average, one comparison to note is how the expenditure on phones and internet is slightly more is than on education and health combined.

This however doesn’t indicate that education and healthcare in the country is cheaper than the cost to communicate, but is probably more of a pointer towards the fact that the majority of the population rely on government subsidised services such as no-fee schools and public hospitals.

Communication however is not a public service and its costs can’t be avoided or subsidised.

“Household consumption expenditure on communication was estimated at R58 billion or approximately 3,4% of total consumption expenditure. On average, households in South Africa spent R3 509 on communication between October 2014 and October 2015,” StatsSA said. THis

It’s worth noting that while costs for voice calls have fallen over the last few years, the average household spend on communications has increased more than any other category since the last report in 2011 – by a massive 67.6% in real terms.

You can read the full LCS 2014/15 survey on the StatsSA website.

[Image – CC South African Tourism]