A snapshot of South Africa’s developmental gains, failures

The Census showed that the population grew from 52 million to 62m in a period of 10 years. Picture: Supplied

The Census showed that the population grew from 52 million to 62m in a period of 10 years. Picture: Supplied

Published Oct 15, 2023


Michael Sutcliffe and Sue Bannister

Statistic South Africa’s publication of the results of Census 2022 provides clear evidence of the degree to which we are reaching our developmental goals, while urging us to be more evidence-led in what we do.

At the outset, congratulations to Stats SA for pulling off what seemed to have been an impossible task in the post-Covid context. Running our country’s first digital census, while ensuring the implementation of international and UN acclaimed methodologies, including significant independent quality assurance, makes our country one of the very few in the world that not only provides transparently census results, but also a whole host of other surveys of social, economic, environmental, infrastructural and other information.

Census 2022 will also assist in ensuring equity in the provision of government services, allowing governmental financial resources to be distributed more equitably, and provides us all with important information to measure the performance of the broad range of social and economic policies and programmes.

The first set of census 2022 Stats SA publications released this past week provide the national and provincial overview, and in the next phases of release, we will hopefully also receive information down to the level of the 4,468 wards, allowing us to measure the degree to which we have addressed the terrible apartheid spatial legacy of racial and gender inequality, unemployment and poverty.

Census 2022 confirms that we now have over 62 million people living in South Africa, with Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal containing over 44% of the population, with both provinces having grown by over 20% of their population. Three other provinces also grew by over 20% during this period (Western Cape, Mpumalanga and Limpopo).

Importantly, such rapid population growth means the demand for social, infrastructural, economic, environmental and other services has increased with concomitant impacts on governmental resources. Planning in such contexts means difficult trade-offs will have to be considered: for example, how do we provide for more classrooms and teachers in areas of high growth, and what do we do with declining numbers of learners in other parts of the country?

Our population lives in some 17.8 million households, with the average size of households being 3.5 persons. But there are marked variations in household size across our provinces: Gauteng has the smallest number of people per household (2.8 persons per household), followed by Western Cape and North West with some 3.3 persons per household. And in KwaZulu-Natal, 53% of households are headed by a woman, compared with 46% in Gauteng.

What this means is that in our major economic centres of Gauteng and Western Cape, there are disproportionately high numbers of, usually male, single-person households, more than likely single persons seeking out jobs. This creates a significant challenge in that government must plan for different possibilities, such as that they could be persons who will remain as migrants remitting income to families in other areas or their families will relocate, putting an additional strain on existing resources.

The improvement in the delivery of basic services since the 2011 census is significant as shown by the following:

• 82.4% of households have access to piped water inside their yards in 2022, compared with 73.4% in 2011;

• 71% of households now have access to flush toilets, compared with 60% in 2011;

• 88.5% of households live in formal dwellings in 2022, compared with 77.6% in 2011;

• 94.7% of households now have access to electricity, compared with 84.7% in 2011;

• Only 7.9% of households live in informal dwellings, compared with 13.6% in 2011; and

• Only 21% of households now do not have access to the internet, compared with 64.8% in 2011.

Census 2022 affirms that we are a highly urbanised country, even though not everyone has easy access to urban services. But, the human settlements landscape is significantly differentiated. For example, out of the eight metropolitan and 205 local municipal areas, the largest 20 municipalities now are home to 53% of the population and 57% of the households.

In these areas that we find significant change, but also significant challenges confronting us. For example, in the five largest metropolitan areas, we find that in the case of the proportion of households living in informal dwelling units:

• In Johannesburg, there has been a reduction from 17.4% in 2011 to 9.7% in 2022;

• In Cape Town, this figure has reduced from 20.5% in 2011 to 11.7% in 2022;

• In eThekwini, this figure has reduced from 15.5% in 2011 to 8.9% in 2022;

• Ekurhuleni has seen a reduction from 21.5% in 2011 to 11.2% in 2022;

• And finally, in Tshwane, households in informal dwellings have reduced from 18% in 2011 to 13.1% in 2022.

While these reductions are commendable, we must ensure we ramp up service delivery, infrastructure renewal, maintenance and repairs. Improved access also means we must ensure we both conserve scarce resources and ensure there are long-term plans in place to increase the supply of resources such as water and energy to meet future demand.

Improving service delivery means we cannot have municipal expenditure on infrastructure repairs and maintenance at levels of 3% (of Property, Plant and Equipment (PPE) expenditure when it should be three times that level. Declining levels of municipal capital expenditure are also a concern. We cannot have technical and professional competence levels in all three spheres of government declining to the extent that we now have. And we must stop the trend where our young professionals choose government work as their last resort, given the perceived reputational risk of being associated with incompetence and corruption.

As we look forward to the next Census in around 10 years time, let’s work together to ensure these significant developmental achievements continue to be realised.

*Sutcliffe and Bannister are Directors at City Insight

**The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of Independent Media or IOL