In a democracy, the votes of the poor and the rich should have equal weight. In post-apartheid SA, however, elections have revolved around the preoccupations of the middle class rather than those of the far more numerous poor. The middle class lobbies hard on its own behalf. It is now more black than white. Many of its members are vulnerable, lacking assets to plan for the future or bounce back from shocks such as redundancy or illness. The loss of one job is often enough to plunge an entire family into poverty. The pathways to middle-class life, through suburban schools and permanent employment, are narrow and often inhospitable to the children of the poor. Some of the key motors of stable employment growth, notably the public sector and parastatals, face major cutbacks. The whole middle class, black and white alike, is experiencing slow income growth. Free from extreme poverty, the middle class nevertheless lacks a ladder of social and economic opportunity. Yet the small and consu...

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