Despite challenging economic conditions, the overall quality of life (QoL) in Gauteng province continues to improve.
There is also an increase in residents’ satisfaction with all spheres of government, despite challenges with crime, unemployment, municipal services, billing, and waste.
These were the results of the Gauteng City-Region Observatory’s fifth Quality of Life Survey (2017/2018), which runs every two years. The survey, which interviewed 24 889 respondents across Gauteng, was released on Tuesday at the University of Johannesburg at an event attended by Gauteng Premier David Makhura.
Gauteng City-Region Observatory (GCRO) Executive Director Rob Moore said the release of the survey’s findings show that satisfaction with government has improved since the last time the survey was run in 2015/16, in particular with the provincial government.
Some 44% of residents are satisfied with provincial government, compared to 39% in the 2015/16 survey, Moore said.
“While this might seem low at first glance, the recent increase in satisfaction with provincial government is significant, and this sphere now commands more satisfaction than national government, which stands at 43% satisfied, and local government at 38%.
Despite continued high levels of population and household growth in Gauteng, the QoL survey shows that levels of access to services have remained stable.
“Access to piped water to homes and yards has remained above 90% over the decade that the survey has been conducted.
“This tells us that government is broadly keeping pace with increases in demand for service connections. However, there are signs that the provision of services has deteriorated significantly in some municipalities, while delivery has improved in others. This reflects in different levels of satisfaction with local government.”
The results further show that of the major cities, Ekurhuleni is doing well and Johannesburg has marginally improved in many service areas.
Smaller municipalities like Lesedi and Midvaal are also up since the last survey in 2015/16, but Emfuleni has seen significant declines in the area of refuse collection, and satisfaction with that municipality is down. Tshwane also seems to be struggling in a number of areas.
Breakdown of results
With just under 25 000 people interviewed across Gauteng’s 529 wards, the 2017/18 Quality of Life Survey is one of the biggest social attitudes surveys in sub-Saharan Africa.
The survey takes a multi-dimensional approach to defining what constitutes quality of life and provides data on a wide range of topics including access to, and satisfaction with, basic services; satisfaction with government; transport and mobility; livelihoods; migration; neighbourhood, community and family dynamics; race and gender relations; health and well-being; and political and social values and attitudes.
Levels of satisfaction with government services have varied, with some service areas showing improvements and some declines since the last Quality of Life survey in 2015/16.
Some 86% of respondents across Gauteng are satisfied with their water services, up from 83% in the last survey. Some 74% of respondents are satisfied with energy services, up marginally from 72% in 2015/16.
Satisfaction with roads has held steady at around 55% across the province but there are differences between municipalities.
“At 61%, slightly more Johannesburg residents are satisfied with roads than in the 2015/16 survey. By comparison, Ekurhuleni has fallen from 60% satisfied to 56% satisfied. Emfuleni has by far the lowest level of satisfaction with roads, at just 19%,” Moore explained.
However, Moore pointed out that Ekurhuleni is outperforming the other metros on most service measures.
“In important areas like cost of municipal services, billing and waste, the province as a whole has seen big declines in resident satisfaction. This includes declines in satisfaction with costs of services and billing in Johannesburg and Tshwane. By contrast, residents of Ekurhuleni are much more satisfied with costs, billing and waste than in the last survey.”
Reflecting weak economic conditions, only 19% of respondents are satisfied with government initiatives to grow the economy.
Satisfaction with public health services is also down overall, from 65% satisfied in 2015/16 to 57% in 2017/18.
“This may reflect how the Life Esidimeni tragedy has seeped into public perceptions of health services, rather than a province-wide deterioration in health provision,” Moore said.
Previous iterations of the survey have shown that overall satisfaction with government is typically lower than satisfaction with the essential services that government provides, and the 2017/18 results are no different.
While many service measures like water or energy show satisfaction levels in the region of 70% or 80%, only 37% of respondents are satisfied with local government.
Overall satisfaction with local government is up marginally in Ekurhuleni (43% satisfied), Johannesburg (38%) and Tshwane (34%). But satisfaction with Emfuleni is down, with only 19% satisfied. Emfuleni’s residents also indicate the highest dissatisfaction with local government in the province, with 64% reporting being dissatisfied.
Across Gauteng, respondents report that the three biggest problems in their communities are crime (32% of respondents), unemployment (18%), and drug and alcohol abuse (16%).
Measured as a whole through a ‘Quality of Life index’ made up of 58 different variables, the overall quality of life has increased from a value of 6.02 (out of a possible 10.0) in 2011 to the current value of 6.30, which represents a significant shift in the right direction.
While the overall trend is positive, quality of life differs significantly across racial groups.
White respondents indicate a fairly substantial improvement in overall quality of life, while African respondents experienced a substantially smaller improvement in quality of life.
Premier welcomes results
Gauteng Premier David Makhura has welcomed the results, saying he is pleased with them.
“I commend the MECs and the Mayors for the hard work to improve the quality of life of our citizens.”
However, Makhura said he is concerned by the trend that shows service delivery decline and regression in Tshwane, Emfuleni, Merafong and Rand West municipalities.
“We have already intervened through Section 139 in Emfuleni. Finances and service delivery will get better. The other municipalities also need support. In the coming weeks, I will meet with the Mayors of the affected municipalities to work out a common recovery plan,” the Premier said, noting that he will not allow politics to stand in the way of delivering socioeconomic development.
With regards to crime, unemployment and drug abuse, the Premier said work is done at national, provincial and city level to deal with investment and economic recovery.