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Newsletter: From Evidence to Action

Violence against women costs the country R28.4 billion

Gender-based violence (GBV), and in particular violence against women, has increasingly made headlines across the world in the recent year.

The U.S. is reacting strongly to high profile case in the U.S. in which a prominent sportsman was fired for beating his girlfriend in an elevator. In India, the rape and murder of a young women on a public bus brought Indian people to the streets to protest against the country’s tolerance of violence and ill treatment of women.

 More close to home in South Africa, the much publicised Oscar Pistorius trial came to a dramatic conclusion, with what is perceived by many as a disappointing outcome and a sad indication of our country’s attitude to GBV.

South Africa is widely regarded as being one of the most violent places in the world for a woman to live. It is estimated that more than 1 000 women are killed by an intimate partner each year and one in four men have admitted to rape. While the moral and social imperative to prevent violence is clear, GBV, is also one of the most expensive health problems globally and can have a fundamental impact on economic growth, spanning several generations. However, so far no attempt has been made to comprehensively estimate the full economic impact this has on the South African economy.

KPMG undertook a study to measure the costs of GBV to the economy with the view to contribute to a deeper understanding among policy makers, political leaders, NGOs, communities and families of the scale and magnitude of the potential costs of GBV in South Africa.

“The objective of estimating the cost of GBV is two-fold,” says Lisa Gahan, Principal Consultant in KPMG’s Human and Social Services (HSS) practice. “To estimate costs over a time period if governments and communities do not take action and to estimate the cost reductions, and the potential gains, that could be achieved with reductions in the levels of violence as a result of implementing national, coordinated action.”

“It also serves to highlight that funding GBV prevention and response programmes is a strategic investment,” continues Gahan. “Not only is eliminating GBV a social imperative, it also promotes gender equality and creates a gender dividend. By building on this costing exercise, we can also establish the business case and economic imperative for the elimination of GBV in South Africa.”

More than 30 studies world-wide, mostly from developed countries, have attempted to quantify the costs of various forms of violence against women. These studies focus largely on the costs of services, and the economic losses due to lost output, decreased productivity and lower earnings resulting from violence.

While the estimates per country vary depending on the scope and focus of the study, the magnitude is clear. Some of the most comprehensive studies, in both developed and developing countries, estimate the cost of violence to be between 1-2% of GDP, and these are widely accepted to be under-estimates, given the conservatism of the methodology and the gross under-reporting of violence.

Findings for South Africa

The greatest challenge in South Africa is lack of accurate and comprehensive data. There is no national prevalence rate for GBV, but based on local level prevalence rates of between 20 percent and 30 percent of women experiencing violence within a given year, this study estimates that the economic impact of that violence is between at least R28.4 billion and R42.4 billion for the year 2012/2013, representing 0.9 percent and 1.3 percent of GDP respectively. This is a significantly important finding at a time when the government is now starting to implement the National Development Plan and has set a national economic growth target of 5.5 percent GDP per year.

“Measuring the costs of violence demonstrates how violence drains resources from many affected groups, not just the perpetrators and victims, but also presents significant costs to businesses and the private sector, all levels of government, and civil society,” says Gahan. Costs include health, justice, and other service costs, lost earnings, lost revenues, lost taxes, and second-generation costs, which are the cost of children witnessing and living with violence, such as increased juvenile and adult crime. “It is widely held in the economic costing literature that the whole of society pays for the costs of not addressing violence against women: it is not a private matter.”

“While we must emphasise that South African data on GBV is limited, the KPMG study illustrates with some certainty, what we know to be the minimum cost of violence and the potential scale of the economic impact on the country given the current availability of information” concludes Gahan.

Violence against women costs the country R28.4 billion