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Johannesburg City Scape as seen from Ponte.7/2/2012. Photo: Gallo Images

The quality of life in Gauteng has declined and black people continue to bear the brunt – survey

A biannual survey that examines the quality of life of Gauteng residents found that the quality of life in the province has declined.

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Johannesburg City Scape as seen from Ponte.7/2/2012. Photo: Gallo Images

The quality of life in South Africa’s most populous province is declining and black African people continue to be the most affected population group, according to the latest Gauteng City-Region Observatory (GCRO) Quality of Life Survey. The results of the 2020-2021 survey were unveiled at the University of Witwatersrand on Thursday, 9 September.

GCRO QoL SURVEY 2020-2021

The GRCO research institute is a partnership between the Gauteng Provincial government, Wits, the University of Johannesburg and SALGA-Gauteng. Since 2009 it has conducted quality of life surveys every two years. The data and findings collected help the government implement policy.

Quality of Life is broadly defined by the GCRO with a view of discovering how residents of Gauteng live. The survey considers living conditions, socio-economic circumstances, self-reported health and well-being, psychosocial attitudes and beliefs, and perceptions of government, service delivery and local challenges. Gauteng Premier David Makhura attended the launch of the survey.


The final Quality of Life survey entailed the lived experiences of 13 616 Gauteng residents that were randomly sampled in each ward of the province. The data was collected via face-to-face interviews by fieldworkers between October 2020 and May 2021 – starting just five months after the first COVID-19 hard lockdown in the country.

“There is no doubt that 2020 and 2021 will go down in the history of the world as an extraordinary period,” said Rashid Seedat, the Executive Director of GCRO.

“The results of the survey reflect the mood of a City-Region confronted by a new, uncertain and challenging social and economic reality brought about by the pandemic.”

The survey used 12 major themes to explore the quality of life of residents in the province, including “The impact of COVID-19”, “Poverty, inequality and social mobility” and “Experiences of violence and safety”, which were added to the questionnaire specifically for this iteration.

Overall, the 2020-2021 findings showed a Quality of Life score of 61 out of 100. According to GCRO, this represents a substantial decline from 64 out of 100 in the previous survey conducted in 2017-2018.



Many of the survey’s respondents reported a reduction in salaries, working hours and increased job losses. Thus, grants and other forms of social support have become even more crucial to the most vulnerable in society.

“However, in general, the most advantaged have experienced the least economic fallout, while Black African respondents and those with lower levels of education have been hit hardest.”

Photo: GCRO


The survey showed that levels of crime are high in Gauteng and issues of safety and security are a big concern for residents – there’s also evidence of growing psycho-social distress.

The GCRO said Gauteng residents are exposed to high levels of violence in their lives and more than half of the adult respondents experienced physical or sexual abuse before the age of 18.

“One in five men have experienced physical violence over the past year, and five percent of women have experienced intimate partner violence,” according to the survey.

Photo: GCRO

Another cause for concern is that self-reported health has worsened in the province and a higher proportion of survey respondents are at high risk of depression and are displaying some decline in mental health.

“However, there is also evidence for strengthening social fabric, particularly at local levels, and even growing tolerance. Nonetheless, positive shifts are not evenly distributed across the population,” said GCRO.


The GCRO said there is relative stability in the delivery of many basic services and survey respondents were relatively pleased with the government’s response to COVID-19. Despite this, however, many residents felt let down – and even outright abandoned – by government, as such government satisfaction has been deeply and negatively affected.

Photo: GCRO

“The QoL 2020/21 data highlights an overall decrease in well-being since2017/18. This decrease is seen across almost all of the seven dimensions of the Quality of Life Index, with the most substantial reductions in the dimensions of governance and socio-economic status,” said GCRO.

Survey respondents from all population groups in South Africa recorded lower Quality of Life index scores but Black Africans are the only group whose scores have fallen below the levels they were at in 2013-2014.

Photo: GCRO
Photo: GCRO
Photo: GCRO


The survey paints a grim picture and the GCRO added that the third peak of the COVID-19 pandemic and the violence and looting that took place in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal in early July 2021 took place after the data collection process was completed. Therefore, the impact of those events is not reflected in the survey results.

“However, we are conscious that they will have further impacted the experiences, perceptions and beliefs of Gauteng residents,” said Seedat.