Post

 “Joy of giving back” (JOGB aka Black tax)

Posted by Flux on 

24 June 2024

What we learnt:

“Black tax” refers to the portion of income that black professionals provide to their families once they start earning a salary. Of those who answered this question, 71% do not feel that family support is a factor when looking for a job. This percentage is higher than we expected and very different from the Millennials study we did about ten years ago, which brought this all up. Most of our interviewees needed to be prompted or had never considered supporting their families.

“Well, to be honest, I was fortunate enough not to have gone through black tax. As a matter of fact, I’m still a burden on my parents sometimes. And they come in and they bail me out. So, for me personally, I do not think Black tax is something that I consider in anything that I do. Because I do not know what it is. And I’ve never been exposed to it.” – Lerato (27, Black, female)

Many indicated that they view family support in a positive light instead of a burden. This point alines with the spirit of ubuntu whereby the identity of an individual is inseparable from their community:

“I’m desperate for a job, so anything that would sustain me, I would take. When it comes to black tax, it’s a real thing, especially in my family. The only person that works is my mom. And I’m not talking about this household, I’m talking about our [extended] family. My grandmother had seven kids. My mom is the only one that works. So, my mom’s salary is distributed throughout the family to buy electricity or to help with the school fees. There’s always something that needs to be done within the family. And if I did get a job, like when I was working, it wouldn’t even feel like tax, but it would feel like I’m relieving my mom’s pressure in terms of finances by just helping out as well.” – Hlengiwe (28, Black, female)

“I know most people dislike black tax, but for me personally, I don’t feel like it’s really black tax because I feel like your mom and dad raised you or a guardian raised you for all their life and you’ve become the woman or the man that you are right now. So I feel like giving back wouldn’t be a black tax. But I feel like it’s also giving back and also like it’s my responsibility. It’s just a thing of being considerate and knowing that, okay, I’m the person I am today and I should look back where I come from and give back whatever I have.” – Gigi (20, Black, female)

What does the research/experts say:

There does not seem to be any South African research that clarifies what percentage of employed black people are paying family support. What is clear is the wealth disparity between White and Black people, even 30 years into our new democracy. 

“In South Africa, my research suggests that the overwhelming majority of black people who work support some of their direct or extended family in some way, but not always. On a large scale, it is grossly unfair to compare black and white households in this nation and have an expectation they are both as financially robust and astute as each other. It is impossible to eliminate the devastating effects of generations of skewed development and discrimination in three decades,” says Munya Shumba, financial advisor at Discovery Limited. He goes on to say that family support is, however, not limited to black people only. “Interestingly, many people from diverse racial backgrounds support their parents in a similar way by either paying for groceries every month, paying for their parent’s medical aid, or just a general monthly allowance to help them get by.” 

Unable to save or invest, family support can impact the ability of many young black professionals to save and build generational wealth. It poses a significant barrier to them hoping to start a business or lead a more comfortable lifestyle.

What can businesses and policymakers do about this?

Generations of missed opportunities for education and the lack of exposure to wealth-building strategies have led to this phenomenon. This raises some questions about the financial literacy of many Black South Africans.

Munya says the real “Black tax” is the lack of financial education. “With better understanding individuals – regardless of race – could make more informed decisions and plan for a prosperous future. Without this knowledge, how could Black parents forty years ago have known the power of investing even a modest amount monthly, potentially leaving a substantial inheritance for their children? Financial education must be addressed to truly tackle the roots of this phenomenon.”

This trend represents consumers looking for ways to make their money go further. Opportunities to buy in bulk is one way to address the need to look after larger families. Bulk packs of meat are one such example. Financial service companies and fintech platforms could guide this cohort to save and invest early.

Employers should do everything (in their power) to pay their employees fairly and offer them job security. Employers must ensure that employees receive the minimum wage and that wages keep up with inflation. Companies should inform employees about their performance should there be any chance of the company closing down.

Zenkosi Dyomfana, an investment manager at Investec, writes “Governments in many African countries fail their people by not using their taxes efficiently or appropriately to provide for people’s basic needs. Black tax then becomes a double tax on black professionals… they end up paying for the services that are supposedly provided for by the government from the taxes they pay.” It is the responsibility of the government to take steps to alleviate economic imbalance and its generational effects. There have been calls for restructuring the income tax to account for different levels of financial responsibility amongst earners. Discussions around new ideas like basic income support have also been taking place. 

The data and quotes mentioned above refer to a project that we are in the midst of, in conjunction with Student Village called “The 30/30/30 Project” whereby we collected insights from 30 South Africans, under the age of 30, 30 years into our new democracy.

By Flux Trends 

WHERE TO FROM HERE?

Use these and many more insights from the 30/30/30 Project Report to BUILD your team, by booking a Bridgebuilder Workshop. 

Close the generation gap and dive into the future of work and how to manage it.

Contact Bethea Clayton at connected@fluxtrends.co.za  or +27764539405, if you are interested in exploring any of these options with your team or clients.

Image credit: Virgil Cayasa

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