Study investigates socio-economic drivers of life satisfaction

Annette Willemse -- Tue, 05/03/2016 - 09:42

Study investigates socio-economic drivers of life satisfaction

During the recent Autumn Graduation Ceremony of the Vaal Triangle Campus of the North-West University (NWU Vaal), the degree Doctor of Philosophy in Economics was conferred upon Dr Chengedzai Mafini upon the completion of his thesis: “Investigating socio-economic drivers of life satisfaction: A comparative study of low income groups in Southern Gauteng.”

Dr Mafini’s research saw him investigating the influence of socio-economic factors on the life satisfaction of individuals residing in Sebokeng, Sharpeville and Sicelo townships, which are all located in Southern Gauteng. Twelve socio-economic factors: namely, marital status, religion, age, gender, education, health, income, employment, rural/urban residence, household size, public services and poverty were included in the study. The results of the study revealed that there was dissatisfaction with life in Sebokeng and Sicelo, whereas respondents from Sharpeville showed slightly higher levels of life satisfaction.

The results also showed that education, health, employment, religion and the provision of public services, positively influenced life satisfaction in all surveyed locations. Economic deprivation and larger household size exerted a negative influence on life satisfaction, while marital status and gender did not influence life satisfaction across all three townships.  However, life satisfaction decreased with age, depicting that younger people were more satisfied with life than the elderly and this pattern was consistent in all three townships. Overall, across the three townships, employment status emerged as the most important socio-economic factor in predicting life satisfaction.

According to Dr Danie Meyer – senior lecturer within the School of Economic Sciences (Faculty of Economic Sciences and Information Technology), the study is significant in terms of its theoretical and policy implications. Theoretically, the study provides a comparative impression of the current trends in life satisfaction amongst township residents who are an important cohort of society in developing economies such as South Africa.  Policy-wise, various organs of the state, as well as non-governmental organisations that are responsible for socio-economic development, may use the study as a reference point in the generation of different initiatives aimed at improving the socio-economic status of township dwellers.