futurefact focuses on South Africa’s young first generation middle class women.
New middle class women, aged 15 to 30, generally believe they can achieve whatever they set out to do, provided they put effort into it, and most find it exciting to be living in a time of so much change.
Twenty four percent (2.6 million) of South African women classify themselves as first generation middle class (FGMC) and, of those, 1.1 million are between 15 to 30 years old. So, while this is not an enormous group, it represents women who are potentially future leaders in South Africa.
Almost all would love the opportunity to study further. Thirty-nine percent of them are still studying, while 35% have matriculated and 28% have already obtained a post-matric qualification. This makes them already better educated than most women in South Africa.
Education is strongly linked to chances of finding a job and especially challenging, high-paying jobs that will reinforce their middle class status or aspirations.
A recent London Financial Times article on inequality in Africa (April 2014) talks about the “fragility” of middle class status, which depends on staying employed in an environment where there are limited employment opportunities. Professor Mthuli Ncube, chief economist at the African Development Bank, was quoted as saying that a move into the new middle class is not one-way but “a revolving door”. Our research also found that the distance between the first generation middle class and where they come from is very narrow and it is easy to fail.
These women find factors relating to finding work very important. Most believe that they must speak English well to get a good job (90%) and they watch TV programmes in English to improve their language skills (84%). They also prefer their children to be educated in English (91%) and learn ‘practical skills’ at school to make them more employable. Although they want well paid, high status jobs, most are pragmatic enough to realise that it is better to have a low status job (65%) or a low paid job (63%) than to be unemployed.
As many as 80% (compared with 68% of women overall) admit they would be lost without their cellphones and they clearly respond well to communications via social media. Eighty-six percent mentioned their confidence in their ability to use technology on their cellphones or computers. Two-thirds spend at least an hour a day on social media and use these to check out what people feel about brands or products, while six out of 10 send comments to friends and family about what they are watching on TV.
They are smart shoppers who do their best to look good and create the right impression in terms of the brands they use on a limited budget. Eighty percent say that they try to shop where they know prices are cheapest and avoid shops that give bad service. Even though three-quarters of them are black, they prefer to shop and socialise at places frequented by “people of all race groups”. They respond well to advertising, with two-thirds saying they are more likely to choose brands that they see or hear advertised. They also believe that the best way to judge someone’s success is through their possessions and try to have the ‘right’ things in their own homes.
Although this group is young, they already believe in the value of working hard and doing things for themselves rather than relying on others, like the government, to provide. Most say they are already saving, investing and making sacrifices now for the future.
They believe that there are lots of opportunities for them in South Africa with 85% saying that, “It is possible to start out poor in this country, work hard and become rich”.
The findings presented above are from futurefact 2013. For more information, check out www.futurefact.co.za
This story was first published in the August 2014 issue of The Media magazine.
IMAGE: Kaya FM Veuve Cliquot polo
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