The haves and the have nots: Ugandans' views and opinions on poverty, fairness and inequality

Over half (54%) of Ugandans say that the reason people are poor is laziness or a lack of personal effort. External factors such as social injustice (29%), luck (16%) and unemployment (11%) are mentioned by fewer people. In the same vein, three times more people (62%) say that hard work is the route to getting ahead in life/improving one status as compared to education (20%). Most citizens (80%) also believe that hard work makes it easy to acquire wealth.

Many Ugandans also have an unclear sense of relative poverty and where they might rank. This is especially true in urban areas: 8 out of 10 urban residents (78%) are considered to be in the richest 40% of the population while only 1 out of 20 urban citizens (4%) consider themselves to be in this wealth group. Similarly, in rural areas, 1 out of 10 (8%) see themselves in the richest 40% of the population while in reality 3 out of 10 (29%) are.

Nonetheless, almost all Ugandans think that the gap between rich and poor is too large (95%) and a large majority (81%) think the government is responsible for reducing this gap. Further, 7 out of 10 citizens (70%) think inequality is an urgent problem. They call on government to provide free quality social services (41%), lower taxes and less regulations on small businesses (37%), and increased funding for social safety nets (37%). But only 3 out of 10 (28%) feel the government is showing sufficient urgency in addressing the problem.

These findings were released by Twaweza in a research brief titled The Haves and the have-nots: Ugandans’ opinions on poverty, fairness, and inequality. The brief is based on data from Sauti za Wananchi, Africa’s first nationally representative high-frequency mobile phone survey. The findings are based on data collected from 1,925 respondents across Uganda in May 2018.

Further, 6 out of 10 (60%) agree that inequality motivates people to work hard and 4 out of 10 think that social benefits make people lazy (44%) and that it is shameful to receive them without working (37%).

Attitudes to women’s roles are worrying: 3 out of 10 think boys’ education should be prioritised over girls’ (32%), 4 out of 10 think that men should be given preferential access to jobs, sources of income and resources in times of shortage (38%) and 5 out of 10 (51%) think that it is better for the family when the woman is the primary custodian of the household.

But, encouragingly, Ugandans have deep faith in the justice system: 9 out of 10 citizens agree that ordinary people (91%) and wealthy people (85%) will both be punished according to the law if they commit crimes. 

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