Tunisia: 747 Thousand Rich & 376 Thousand Poor?!

According to the numbers released by Tunisia’s National Statistics Institute, Tunisia has 747 thousand rich people and only 376 thousand poor; which puts poverty at only 3.8% in Tunisia, the middle class at 80% and the percentage of the rich at 6.2%; which sounds great, but a bit unrealistic too.

Taking a closer look at the numbers behind the numbers as they were released in a recent Tunisian economic review, we find the following:

Rich people in Tunisia are defined as people who spend 4000 TND (US$ 3,120) or more per year, that’s around 11 TND (US$ 8.58) per day.

On the other hand, poor people are defined as people who spend around 400 TND (US$ 312) or less per year, so around 1 dinar a day (US$ 0.86).

It’s obvious these numbers are a bit unrealistic, especially with the soaring prices of everything from food to the different essential commodities to fuel …etc.

In reality, people living on only 4000 dinars per year are mostly in the lower end of the middle class, barely making ends meet and most probably living in debt.
Personally, I spend a few times more than that per year, and I’m nowhere near rich, in fact I consider myself to be somewhere in the middle middle class.

As for the poor; The World Bank defines extreme poverty as living on less than US$ 1 per day, and moderate poverty as less than $2 a day; so that would put Tunisians living on around 1 Dinar per day mostly in the extreme poverty category with the best cases “moderately” poor, whatever that’s supposed to mean. That doesn’t mean that people living on a bit more than a dollar or two shouldn’t be considered poor as well; slightly less poor but not that much better off.

I don’t want to sound negative here, and I’m really not, in fact I think that if a person visited Tunisia a number of times over the past years, it would be clearly obvious to them that the middle class is steadily growing, poverty is decreasing, people are spending more, and that the economy is doing better and is more vibrant than ever before.

I just think that the definitions of rich and poor in Tunisia in this study are a bit unrealistic, and that the percentages don’t perfectly represent the truth on the ground. The percentage of rich people is less than 6.2%, and the percentage of the poor is a bit more, with the majority really in the middle class; and after all I think that’s normal; the bigger the middle class is and the smaller poverty and wealth rates are, the healthier the society and more balanced it is as a whole.

[Source: African Manager (FR)]
[Via: Bilel (FR)]

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Mohamed Marwen Meddah is a web development director, amateur photographer and web enthusiast from Tunisia, currently living in Canada.

3 thoughts on “Tunisia: 747 Thousand Rich & 376 Thousand Poor?!”

  1. Marwen, I don’t think we should discuss this study at all. Satistics are only a tool to achieve specific ends; e.g. political.

    But let me follow your reasoning for a moment. 4000 dinars might be “nothing” in your Tunis neighbourhood, they become quite a sum outside the capital. You simply cannot judge on the national cost of living from that of one city, neither can you judge on the basis of what you think is a sign of wealth (see how subjective and relative all this is?). I don’t know about your lifestyle but I would suggest that if you have a house, a car and travel at least once a year then you are no longer in the “lower middle class as you say”, you are way at the upper end. The lower middle class would typically include people such as nurses, public transport drivers, plumbers, grocers, etc.

  2. I agree Tarek that most statistics and how we get to them are but a means to another end, which is in most cases to sell/promote (a product, a service, a reputation, an idea, a country …etc)

    This is one of those statistics, and personally, like any other piece of information out there it is open to scrutiny and further study if a person is interested in its issue.

    I agree with you that the price of living differs from one city to another, and that each person can have his own definitions of what wealth or poverty is, and yes that makes it rather subjective and relative, but I think that is something that applies to statistics in general, and therefore to any discussion based upon them.

    If I base my opinion on myself, I spend a few times the definition of rich; I rent, I don’t have a house of my own; If not for the help of my dad I probably wouldn’t have a car right now or I’d still be paying its debt; I only get to travel on my expense once every two years and it more or less puts a whole in my bank account; I don’t drink; I don’t lead a lavish lifestyle; so do I consider myself rich? No way. Do I consider myself poor or on the lower end of the middle class? No. I think I’m more in the middle area of the middle class, and I’m not complaining, I thank God for every single penny and for being where I am.

    But when I wrote what I did I wasn’t basing it only on myself, I was posting it based on my observations of the Tunisian society through the people I know from different professions with different levels of income and the lives they’re leading.

    And what you said about the lower middle class including people such as nurses, public transport drivers, plumbers, grocers and the like, confirms what I said; look at how much money those people live on and you’ll find that they basically spend 4000 TND or more per year, so in the definition of the NSI, they’re rich people. I bet they didn’t know that.

  3. Salam all,

    I think that the definition of “poor” in Islamic Law is “whomever is unable to feed himself and his family”. I don’t know how relevant the UN definition of “living on USD 1” is: a USD 1 can do wonders in places and is totally useless in other places.

    Under the Islamic Definition, I don’t think that the 3.8% figure is too unrealistic.


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