Zimstat says you need just US$20 a month to be considered not poor, doesn’t make sense

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A few weeks ago we looked at Zimstat’s Labour Force Report for Q2 2023 which showed that 61% of Zimbabweans who are formally employed earn less than ZW$100,000 (US$12.66). That is a crazy stat but we all understand that, for the urban dweller at least, side hustles are supplementing that income.

That may be but how much does one actually need to survive? Well, Zimstat released the Poverty Datum Lines for November 2023 and it doesn’t really make sense.

Food Poverty Line

This represents the amount of money that an individual requires to afford a daily minimum energy intake of 2,100 calories. In other words, the amount of money one needs not to go hungry. If one earns less than this they are considered poor, food poor, which is the worst kind of poor.

Zimstat says in November 2023, the Food Poverty Line (FPL) for one person was ZWL87,756.00. That is US$15.19 using the official rate today.

I know there are ways to stretch a dollar but how does one feed themselves for a whole month with just $15 or 50c a day? How does one get 2100 calories on 50c?

A slice of white bread has about 67 calories, meaning to get 2100 calories from bread you need to consume 31 slices. How are you managing that on 50c, that gets you about 9 slices. How can Zimstat say you need 50c a day to get 2100 calories?

Sadza – could that be the answer? How many calories does one get in a typical serving of sadza? That’s surprisingly hard to answer. I found this website which says a cup of sadza (240g) contains 340 calories.

Let’s say a typical serving is about 500g or 2 cups, that would mean from two sadza meals a day one would get 1360 calories. If we then considered the calories in the relish one could get to 2100 calories.

The question is, can you get two sadza meals a day for just 50c? I don’t think so. It just isn’t possible to get a sadza meal for 25c.

Unless you find yourself in some rural areas where you can mealie meal for scraps. Could it be that going rates in the rural areas brought this figure down?

Total Consumption Poverty Line

This represents the minimum total income needed for an individual not to be deemed poor. It’s the amount that an individual required to purchase both non-food and food items as at November 2023 in order not to be deemed poor.

It was ZW$115,090 (US$19.92). So, if you earn $20 or more a month, you are not poor according to Zimstat.

So, here Zimstat is saying that an individual needed $20 to buy their food, cleaning and washing supplies and to cover their shelter needs. I don’t know about you but for some reason, $20 doesn’t sound enough for all that. $20 is not enough for just food.

Why the wrong-looking figures?

Zimstat says the Total Consumption Poverty Line was derived using 2017 PICES data. PICES being Poverty, Income, Consumption and Expenditure Survey.

My friend, Robert Mugabe was president of Zimbabwe until November 2017. Zimstat is using a survey from that time to help calculate the poverty datum lines for November 2023.

To point out how ridiculous that is, Zimstat conducted a mini PICES survey in 2019 due to “the rapid economic changes that occurred in the Zimbabwean economy from 2017 to 2019.”

I would argue there were even more rapid and drastic economic changes from the pandemic to today than there were between 2017 and 2019.

So, using the 2019 PICES data would have led to inaccurate PDLs, much less using 2017 data. That must be one of the reasons Zimstat ended up with this seemingly inaccurate data.

A person living on $20 a month is poor and is going hungry. The figures above don’t make sense.

Also read:

Breaking down the poverty info released by ZIMSTAT, Zim situation dire

61% of employed Zimbabweans earning less than $12.66 a month

Zimbabwe unemployment rate at 19.7% but only 19.9% of rural women employed


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  1. Geto-kun

    Let me confess. Post covid l had a very rough time, I lost my job and couldn’t get any money to start even a $50 dollar business. Me, my lil brother and father survived on $12 per month. $12. Per month. 3 people. I kid y’all not. So $20 is a lot of money trust me

    1. Geto-kun

      And it wasn’t just for one month. We went like this for 4 months on a budget of $12 per month. Humans are resilient, kinda like cockroaches

      1. All Things Encouraging Only
    2. Me

      We know people can actually survive at zero $ , but the key word here is poverty.

    3. Anonymous

      It doesn’t make sense though – how many times dd yu eat a day ? So yuvare trying to say you were not buying data and meat ryt…

      1. Geto-kun

        We ate twice a day. Not to mention the 8 or 9 mangoes and perhaps 6 guavas to supplement those meals.

        1. Strong Rural Background (SRB)

          @Geto-kun, spare us the theatrics. Mangoes and guavas aren’t synchronous. As a matter of fact there’s a gap between end of mango season and onset of guava season.

          Nyepai muchisiya zvemangwana.

      2. Geto-kun

        We bought telecel data once a month, the overnight one. Amazingly those days telecel had some issues and we could use it unlimited for the duration of the night. We downloaded all we needed for the month

        1. Anonymous

          Geto-kun, you’re a shameless liar! DID YOU PAY RENT? DID YOU PAY FOR ELECTRICITY?

      3. Geto-kun

        Lol. Mango padzinenge dza mid season ma guava anobva atanga. Muto wepa den pangu une tuma flowers izvezvi. I know what I’m talking about. Ndini ndakatambura

    4. Anonymous

      Its not true.

    5. 3man

      @Geto-kun You were not surviving on $12 but yiu were actually starving to death. Its a miracle you lived to see this day. You better praise God for the miracle.

    6. Moyo

      I don’t think that you were 12 was enough , did u pay the rates ? Were you eating at your house daily or you were troubling neighbors and friends so technically u were not surviving on $12. If we had the complete data you would find that you spent more than $20 from your neighbors’ budget. Even if we ignore all this ,it doesn’t mean that if you survived you were not poor

  2. Starving for data

    Looks like this was a rush job to fill the yearly task list or to meet performance review metrics. $20??? I mean, I’ve done it once before for food but I had some fat in the emergency tank and had to go on ultra low power mode to make it work (one ‘meal’ a day, lots of water, lots of sleep, no leaving the house, no exercise). My mother legit thought I was dying when she saw me months later, jeans almost falling off๐Ÿ˜‚ No way $20 is sustainable in an urban setting!

    1. Reaper

      Some are having one meal a day in a rural setup where you have to find everything in different places

  3. Sean

    I think we’re all forgetting about rent ….

  4. Anonymous

    Hmm ayy in Zimbabwe about 80% of that 15,2 m population are poor regardless of ZanuPf people being the richer bt 3/4 is poor no matter how can zimstat manipulate figures

  5. Anonymous

    Zimstat is useless.

  6. Peter

    What are those people in Zimstat smoking.

  7. Fighter

    Zimstat is an organisation run by incompetent people. Infact all government institutions are run by incompetent people, courts, police, hospitals.

    NSSA pays ZwL 60000 to pensioners so does government.I remember in 1974 Ian Smith saying “these people will steal from you”, mean Zanu . He was prophetic. They did what he was afraid of.

    1. A

      Does that mean Rhodesia was better?

      1. Blue-Black

        Definitely YES!

  8. Rude jerk

    Bunch of baloney I say
    Rent $45
    Food $30
    Plus school fees
    I would say a family needs at least a $100 month

  9. Overpaid Tool

    These Zimstat guys will tell you driving a Zamboni to work is much faster that driving a Hilux, these people will cook up anything. What can you buy will 20 bucks ?

  10. Captain Jack Sparrow

    Endai kuepworth and you will see that 50 cents is enough to buy what you need on a daily basis … 50c unotenga 4 slices of bread an egg mealie meal nemuriwo wacho kkkkkk

  11. D.K.

    Interestingly, before 1980 our parents could do for us what we are not able to do with our children. Staying in the township with only the father going to work for money for the family, I cannot remember a day the family had to cut on food. Breakfast consisted of a loaf or two of bread, a packet or two of fresh milk, yes fresh, liberally applied margarine, mostly the tasty one named after a bird, and the best tea which starts with a T. Lunch for those at home was sadza and/or what the creative mothers would make, while those at work would buy something like sadza with beef or chicken, or a big meat pie with real meat, and decide on whether to wash it down with a soft drink or a pint of milk. Dinner was sadza and beef with vegetables mostly, sometimes it was chicken and sometimes beans. With fridges being very expensive at the time, milk was bought on a daily basis, together with bread, and meat was bought in time for cooking. Transport was very affordable and the fare depended on how far or near to the destination your bus stop was, and the timetables were such that you could always travel with the same people who may be in their preferred seats and you could find your seat always available if you left your house at the same time everyday. No need to wake up too early, and after work people who drank, (and they did drink daily as it was affordable), would get to their favourite drinking hole on time.
    When people asked for pay raises, the people of the other race who were in control at the time would ask why we needed a pay rise as we survived on sadza and beans whose prices were still low! They called all that we are “sadza and beans”. They used to use government generated statistics, and we afforded the decent standards of living because of the clear and correct statistics that assisted them by being ahead of the workers’ needs. Statistics should not be used as a PR tool as those generating the numbers will be tempted to cook up the numbers to present the wanted picture.

    1. Old School

      D.K, you should write novels about those days, because ama2000 generation would wanna know of what life used to be those days.

    2. T1

      Ma1 aya. U are a good author ๐Ÿ‘Š๐Ÿ‘Š๐Ÿ‘Š

  12. What

    Rent alone is how much per month. What about energy is it gas or electricity or wood?

  13. Galaxy X1600

    Zimstat iyi I think varikuwanza guka bcoz sober sense hautaure zvekupengaa izvi.

  14. Always Off Topic

    It’s called hack o nomics , it’s a new trick they learned from China. The Chinese do it all the time. Why not here in Zim?

    $20 a month is less than $1 a day. Maybe you can get by on your own sleeping in the streets, with that much. But to say you are not poor or doing well enough, just shows the lunacy of this government.

    Don’t worry we will be upper middle income by 2030, with neither enough water nor electricity. #KeepThemPoor

    1. Air pie

      That’s where that statement of ‘China has uplifted their people from poverty’ comes from. Doing it the right way was too slow for political timeframes so they redefined what poverty meant. That’s a dangerous and stupid game cos grass roots people can feel nothing has changed while they see the stats go up. Eventually they will ‘ask’ where their share of the prosperity they see every day in propaganda is, and some won’t be nice about it.

  15. The Last Don

    Statistics from ZimStats are what it is: statistics for Zimbabwe by the Zimbabwean government. Who else believes this stupid data apart from the dead?
    My heart bleeds for the poor DeadBC & The Horrid reporters who will regurgitate this with straight faces yet they are also up to their necks in poverty and the gullible ZANU-PF supporters who will believe this yet they are wallowing in poverty.

  16. Anonymous

    Why do you hate your country so much , a fool I must belive who has never been anyway and sees grass greener elsewhere.
    Love your country, respect your ancestors for it’s wasn’t for thing bring before you you wouldn’t have been there.
    Urizibenzi, honestly where do you get your stats that’s why I confident you a made person

  17. Kyle

    Geto kun,usapenge ukwane wanzwa,hatisi zvidzoyi, imarii bucket rechibage izvezvi,2 litre cooking oil haikwane coz 10us +1 kugaisa

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