30 December 2015

Mozambique: Household Survey Shows Improved Living Standards

Maputo — The data from the 2014-15 Household Survey, undertaken by Mozambique's National Statistics Institute (INE), and released in Maputo on Wednesday, show an across the board improvement in living standards since the previous survey, held in 2008-09.

Perhaps the most startling figure is the declining percentage of disposable income spent on food. In the 2002-03 survey, households reported that 48 per cent of their expenditure went on food and non-alcoholic drinks. In 2008-09, when poverty, to the government's dismay, increased, food amounted to 51.4 per cent of expenditure.

But now that figure has fallen to 35.6 per cent.

Poorer households inevitably spend a higher percentage of their income on food than do richer ones. So this figure points towards a sharp decline in monetary poverty.

The INE politely refuses to draw this, or any other conclusion from the figures, pointing out that its task is merely to gather and publish the statistics. It is up to other institutions to interpret them. In the near future, based on the Household Survey, the Ministry of Economy and Finance will issue a National Poverty Assessment.

Transport as a percentage of expenditure rose from 6.3 per cent in 2008/9 to 9.7 per cent in 2014/15, while there was a remarkable rise in the amount spent on restaurants, hotels and cafes, increasing from 0.7 to 8.4 per cent of expenditure. The amount spent on communications almost doubled, from 2.1 to 4.1 per cent of total expenditure, doubtless a tribute to the enormous expansion in the mobile telephone network.

As expected, the figures show a continuing sharp urban/rural divide. For households in urban areas food only accounts for 20.7 per cent of their expenditure, but in the countryside the figure rises to 53 per cent.

In absolute terms, average monthly household expenditure per capita rose from 324 meticais in 2002/3 to 721 meticais in 2008/9 to 1,408 meticais (31.3 US dollars at current exchange rates) in 2014/15.

Per capita expenditure is vastly higher in Maputo than anywhere else in the country - 5,094 meticais a month in Maputo city and 3,150 meticais in Maputo province. The most populous provinces, Nampula and Zambezia, are clearly also the poorest in monetary terms. The survey found that monthly household expenditure per capita was 809 meticais in Zambezia and 874 meticais in Nampula.

A further indicator of rising living standards is the possession of durable goods. In 2008/09 only 23.5 per cent of households owned a mobile phone, but now the figure has risen to 55.8 per cent. The number of households owning a television set has almost doubled, from 12.4 to 24.2 per cent, while ownership of radios has fallen significantly, from 46.1 to 39.5 per cent.

Car ownership has doubled, from two to 4.1 per cent of households, while ownership of motor-cycles has more than doubled, from 3.6 to 8.1 per cent. On the other hand, the number of households owning bicycles has fallen from 38.3 to 32.8 per cent.

There has been a significant increase in personal comfort - the number of households owning beds or bunks has risen from 39.1 to 52.4 per cent.

The survey found that illiteracy has fallen from 49.9 per cent of the population aged 15 and above in 2008/09 to 44.9 per cent now. There are sharp gender and geographical differences. 30.1 per cent of men are illiterate, but 57.8 per cent of women cannot read and write.

23.1 per cent of the urban population and 56.6 per cent of the rural population are illiterate. As expected, the lowest illiteracy rate (9.5 per cent) is in Maputo city. The highest (60.7 per cent) is in the northern province of Cabo Delgado (rising to 73.7 per cent among Cabo Delgado women).

One alarming, and so far unexplained, anomaly is a rise in illiteracy in Tete province - from 50.3 per cent in 2008/09 to 55.2 per cent now. Tete was the only province where illiteracy rates worsened.

There was also a sharp improvement in water supply and sanitation. In 2008/09 only 40.5 per cent of households took their drinking water from safe sources (such as piped water in the house or from standpipes, wells and boreholes with hand pumps, or protected springs). The 2014/15 survey showed this figure has increased to 50.9 per cent.

In 2008/09, 49.3 per cent of households had no latrines at all, and thus defecated in the open. That figure has now fallen to 37.5 per cent.

The number of households with improved latrines has risen from 11.9 to 20.6 per cent, and with unimproved latrines from 34.9 to 35.5 per cent. Only a small minority of households have toilets linked to septic tanks - but this minority is growing, from 4.1 per cent in 2008/09 to 6.3 per cent now.

There has also been a sharp increase in the use of electricity. 24.8 per cent of households said they use electricity for lighting, compared with 13.9 per cent in 2008/09. The use of firewood for lighting has fallen from 24.8 to 14.2 per cent, and the decline in the use of kerosene lamps has been dramatic, falling from 44.5 to 13.2 per cent.

The household survey is based on a sample of 11,628 households, in both urban and rural areas and covering all provinces, in 1,236 sampling areas. It took place over a year, and during this period each household was interviewed three times.

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