South Africa

Credit Suisse Progress Baromter 2019

Credit Suisse

The Credit Suisse Progress Barometer measures the desire for progress in society, politics and economy around the globe.

For this year’s edition, 16,000 citizens in 16 different countries on six continents (all except Antarctica) were interviewed and asked to share their views.

The questionnaire for the Progress Barometer was developed and launched in Switzerland in 2018 and taken to a global level in 2019. gfs.bern worked with local experts to ensure that the concept and questionnaire were adapted to reflect the context and characteristics of each country individually.

At the heart of the concept are 30 statements referring to 10 aspects of progress in society, politics and the economy in each case. For each of these aspects respondents were asked to indicate whether – in their opinion – the wheels of progress should move much faster (indicating desire for progress) or whether they should stop and be reversed (indicating aversion to progress).

This index allows opinions on progress within a country to be compared by looking at the areas of politics, society and the economy separately. Moreover, it also provides the opportunity to compare the 16 countries included in the study, thus helping us understand the readiness for progress around the world.




The process of adapting the questionnaire to each country brought to light how subjective progress as a notion is and how dependent it is on personal opinion and cultural background. Progress in one particular area can be viewed very favourably in one country, whereas in another country it might be seen as quite problematic. Progress is also not always seen as positive. The political zeitgeist, for example, suggests an increase in political polarization for the future – a development that many citizens would definitely prefer to reverse.

In addition to collecting information on where the citizens want their country to go in the future, the Progress Barometer also looks at the past and how citizens evaluate the changes their country has seen in the last ten years.

This cockpit is a portrait of how progress is seen in South Africa in 2019. Readiness for progress is discussed for the areas of politics, society and the economy – as well for the country overall. The 30 items used to calculate the progress indices are displayed in a progress map showing readiness for progress on the x-axsis and the unanimity with which this progress is demanded on the y-axsis.

For methodological information, please consult the info box at the end of the cockpit.

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Over all the 16 countries surveyed, South Africa is one of the top 5 when it comes to its overall readiness for progress (4th out of 16). The desire to move the dial forward on economic issues is particularly high.

Progress Map South Africa

Unemployment is a huge issue in South Africa with the general unemployment rate at roughly 30% and almost twice as high among young people. The one issue where South Africans therefore want most progress is the improvement of skills for its workforce, and they are very interested in lifelong learning. Greater reluctance is seen, however, in increased spending of taxpayers’ money on research. The professionalization of what has previously been voluntary work promises new job opportunities, which is why South Africa is also willing to embrace progress in this area. Since there is still a long way to go in terms of perfecting the country’s educational system, it is also understandable that the readiness for progress in terms of a transition towards a service-based and knowledge-based economy is low. People prefer to maintain the status quo in this respect, as the South African economy has been under strain in the last few years, and a substantial part of the country’s production still stems from agriculture. Accordingly, there is a clear aversion to the relocation of production processes abroad and to deindustrialization.

South Africans want less bureaucracy, which would provide for better conditions to attract businesses; they want to see progress on free trade and embrace the influx of foreign experts into the country.

An important aspect in South Africa is the question of equal rights between men and women. Here, South Africans are fundamentally willing to make progress. Associated with this is the expansion of public and private child care, which is also desired in this country.

They also want to see progress in the expansion of gay rights, but at a slower pace.

The South African power company Eskom is the seventh biggest energy company in the world. It is also the lynchpin of and symbol for many of South Africa’s problems, such as mismanagement, corruption and energy shortages. The idea that Eskom should reposition itself towards renewable energies therefore also reflects the desire for a fresh start and a better future for the nation’s biggest state-owned enterprise. South African voters are aware that infrastructures must be built for the energy transition and that sufficient land should be available for this purpose. They are willing to embrace progress in this respect. While South Africans also want to move the dial forward in electric mobility, this is less of a priority than it is with other nations.

The polarization of political culture is an inhibitory factor in a relatively large number of countries. In South Africa, too, there is a desire for change in this respect. This polarization is related to the way in which political information is disseminated. More and more sources of information are available, especially online. People are more likely to consume information that corresponds to and reinforces their own world view. There is uncertainty about information sources and their professionalism („fake news„). There is a desire for this spread of „fake news“ to be reduced.

Compared to the other 16 countries surveyed in this year’s Progress Barometer, South Africa is amongst the countries with the biggest desire for progress (4th out of 16).

The desire for progress is biggest when it comes to economic issues. But there is also considerable willingness to move the dial forward on social and in political issues.

Australias self- assessment of progress

When asked how South Africans themselves would rate progress in their country, 51% are of the opinion that their country is currently very progressive or somewhat progressive in terms of social issues, while35% think the same of economic progress and 34% also think political progress has been made.

Desire for Progress in South Africa

Future prospects

A majority of South Africans are optimistic or at least partially optimistic about their own future (75%). But when it comes to their children, the population are pessimistic: 80% very much or rather agree with the statement that there is a risk their children will have to cope with less prosperity. A majority of respondents fear that their social and economic status is under increasing pressure (78%). 43% consider themselves to be financially insured at retirement age, while 55% of all South Africans are not confident that they will have enough money.

Assessment of past 10 years

The majority of South Africans feel there has been a deterioration in the areas of political co-determination (60%), social security (67%), national security (69%), stability of economic relations (67%), data protection (60%) and both rural (55%) and urban (53%) infrastructure. An improvement in the field of sustainable technologies (50%) is discernible.

Social Cohesion

66% of South African voters believe that only a small minority is getting richer, while all others are not benefiting from development (84%). Furthermore, 82% of respondents agree that more economic freedom brings growth and progress to South Africa. 55% think that important developments are blocked because everyone always puts family before society. A majority of South African society (85%) feels that conflicts should be resolved without armed force.

Battle against climate change

87% of the South African population wants more government intervention to prevent companies from polluting the environment; 68% want a greener economy, while 11% think the economy should focus solely on growth. There is little desire for the introduction of a mineral oil tax in South Africa (27%).

on behalf of: Credit Suisse

basic population: South African citizens with the right to vote

fieldwork: Cint AB

surveying: online panel

survey period: 20.09.2019-18.10.2019

sample size: min. 1000 per country, South Africa (N=1033)

margin of error: at 50/50 (and 95 percent probability) South Africa (± 3)

quota characteristics: age/gender interlocked

weighing: age/gender

survey duration: average survey time in minutes in South Africa = 25

Progress Index and Items:

Respondents were asked the following question: „For each of the areas below, assess the current development and imagine this development as a wheel that turns. For each case, decide whether the development should be accelerated or reversed.“ Ten statements asking about a development in society, economy and politics each were surveyed in all 16 countries. The adaption of these items to best suit the countries context were made in cooperation with local experts.

The following items were surveyed in Chile:

Progress in Economy:

service-based society: Chile produces fewer goods and is turning into a service-based society.
digitalization: Digitisation/Robotisation makes our working lives easier and more efficient, but it also makes traditional professions redundant.
free trade: The trade of goods is getting freer and more global.
lifelong learning: You have to do regular on-the-job training in order to keep up.

robots replace jobs: With the help of algorithms and networked computer solutions, many workstations are being replaced, for example in offices or when controlling vehicles.
production outsourced: Many work steps are moved abroad.

housing bubble: The construction industry is booming and real estate and rental prices are getting higher and higher.
influx foreign experts: Chile needs more and more experts from abroad.
development of agricultural land: Major infrastructure projects and ideas means that more and more cultivated land is built on.
e-mobility: Mobility with electrically powered cars allows even more individual mobility with reduced emissions of climate-damaging substances.

Progress in Society:

gender equality: Gender equality is promoted in all areas of life.
urban-rural contrast: People living in big cities and in small towns in the rural areas have fewer and fewer interests in common.
gay rights: Gay couples increasingly enjoy equal rights in all areas of life.
fewer independent media: There are fewer and fewer independent media outlets in Australia.
state intervention against poverty: The state is intervening more and more to combat poverty.
professionalization voluntary work: Many areas of society that used to function on a voluntary basis are now being professionalized.
migration transforms society: Immigration transforms the composition of societies.

womens right to choose: Women can decide for themselves whether they want to abort or not.

increase life expectancy: Advances in medicine means that we are healthier into old age, but at the same time we’ll have to work for longer.

Progress in Politics:

dependence on international agreements: When it comes to its global market position, Australia is increasingly dependent on international agreements with other countries.
individualization and self fulfillment: With increasing individualization, social pressure diminishes and everyone can live by their own values.
regulation increase: More and more everyday things are becoming more strictly regulated./The state ensures that many parts of life and work are clearly regulated.
transition to knowledge based society: Australia is turning into a knowledge-based society and is spending less on agriculture and instead more on universities and higher education.
accessability trough social media: People can organise themselves spontaneously via the internet and force policy-makers to become more accessible to the public.
polarization: Politics is becoming increasingly polarised and cooperation between the parties more difficult.
media diversity vs. reliability: While more and more sources of information are available to form a political opinion, the facts become less important.
political compromise: In order to overcome political paralysis and getting things done, politicians must compromise more.