South Africa – winners and losers

The arrival of the World Cup to South Africa is a tribute to that country’s transformation since Apartheid ended in the early 1990s. It’s now a thriving emerging market–the “S” in the BRICS–and participates in the G20 and OECD work too.

But behind this success story lies a troubling and persistent problem – poverty. Based on the national definition of poverty – $4 a day – more than half of South Africans (54%) are poor. And, as the chart below shows, poverty and inequality still reflect race. While the African community’s access to services such as housing, water and electricity has improved substantially, its income continues to lag far behind other social groups. By international standards, this link between race and poverty is remarkably strong. Nor have there been too many signs of this link weakening.  

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Suicide declining since the 1980s

Suicide is a tragedy for individuals, their families and friends. But it can also reflect wider social problems, including depression and poor quality of life. For that reason, rates of suicide can offer insights into aspects of a society’s overall health.

There were an estimated  140,000 suicides in OECD countries in 2006, the most recent year for which internationally comparable data is available. Death rates were lowest in the southern European countries of Greece, Italy and Spain, as well as Mexico and the United Kingdom, at fewer than seven deaths per 100,000 people. They were highest in Korea, Hungary, Japan and Finland, at 18 or more deaths per 100 000 people.

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