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.