An analysis of well-being in Gauteng province using the capability approach

As countries across the globe pursue economic development, the improvement of individual and societal well-being has increasingly become an overarching goal. In the global South, in particular, high levels of poverty, inequality and deteriorating social fabrics remain significant challenges. Programmes and projects for addressing these challenges have had some, but limited, impact.

This occasional paper analyses well-being in Gauteng province from a capability perspective, using a standard ‘capability approach’ consistent with Amartya Sen’s first conceptualisation, which was then operationalised by Martha Nussbaum. Earlier research on poverty and inequality in the Gauteng City-Region was mainly based on objective characteristics of well-being such as income, employment, housing and schooling. Using data from the Gauteng City-Region Observatory’s Quality of Life Survey IV for 2015/16, our capability approach provides a more holistic view of well-being by focusing on both objective and subjective aspects simultaneously.

The results confirm the well-known heterogeneity in human conditions among South African demographic groups, namely that capability achievements vary across race, age, gender, income level and location. However, we observe broader (in both subjective and objective dimensions) levels of deprivation that are otherwise masked in the earlier studies. In light of these findings, the paper recommends that policies are directly targeted towards improving those capability indicators where historically disadvantaged and vulnerable groups show marked deprivation. In addition, given the spatial heterogeneities in capability achievements, we recommend localised interventions in capabilities that are lagging in certain areas of the province.


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