Towards a Social Cohesion Index for South Africa using SARB data
The aim of this paper is to create a measurement for national-level social cohesion in South Africa, by creating an index of variables that provide insight into what it is that holds our society together and, conversely, what causes division within it. More specifically, we reconstruct a social cohesion index developed by researchers at the Centre for Research on Peace and Development (CPRD) at Katholieke Universiteit (KU) Leuven in Belgium, by using data from the 2015 round of the South African Reconciliation Barometer (SARB) survey. The social cohesion triangle measure operationalises the concept of social cohesion by providing an overall measure based on the scores for three sub-indicators: (i) equality and social inclusion, (ii) social and institutional trust, and (iii) shared identity. The first sub-indicator shows relatively low scores for economic inclusion and equality at the national level, with substantial variation across race groups. The trust indicator highlights the extremely low levels of trust in South African society, especially inter-group trust. There is little variation between race groups for inter- and intragroup trust, whilst there is substantial variation for trust in institutions. The national level measure produced for a shared South African identity is the most positive indicator for social cohesion of the three sub-indicators. It shows the high level of identification with the national identity across all race groups.
The indicator produced provides a measure by which to track social cohesion in relation to social, economic and political developments over time. The index also provides a means to test for potential relationships between the constitutive indicators (trust, identity, equality and inclusion) over time. Tracking these developments can highlight important policy considerations in national priority areas of reconciliation, nation-building, the capacity and quality of political institutions, and governance, redistribution, inclusive growth and development, amongst others.