Residents of Gauteng earn more, are better educated and are likely to live longer than people in other provinces, a South Africa Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR) study has found.
A report released yesterday, authored by Chris Kriel, identified "glaring inequalities" in service delivery and living conditions across the provinces.
This suggested a need for decentralisation of provincial authority, including a degree of autonomy over tax and labour market regulation.
The move would give less developed provinces the best chance to get a competitive edge over their neighbours and close the development gap.
But the report noted that proposals to amalgamate provinces were indicative of a policy move in the opposite direction.
It found that last year in Gauteng residents earned on average 300 to 400percent more than people living in Limpopo.
The report projected that by 2010 Gautengers were likely to live 20 percent longer than people in KwaZulu-Natal, probably because of "the devastation of HIV-Aids".
Gauteng also had the most educated population. The 6percent of residents holding degrees was almost double the national average.
As the contributor of almost a third of gross domestic product, the province had a "firmly established" reputation as South Africa and Africa's economic powerhouse.
This made it difficult for provinces such as the North West and Limpopo to close the development gap, the study found.
The worst province in which to live was the Eastern Cape, according to the report.
It had the lowest proportion of formal houses - just more than 50 percent - and a quarter of households still relied on bucket toilets. - Sapa