South Africa PEOPLE 2017

South Africa PEOPLE 2017

Page last updated on January 12, 2017

note: estimates for this country explicitly take into account the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS; this can result in lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality, higher death rates, lower population growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and sex than would otherwise be expected (July 2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 26
[see also: Population country ranks ]

noun: South African(s)
adjective: South African

Ethnic groups:
black African 80.2%, white 8.4%, colored 8.8%, Indian/Asian 2.5%
note: colored is a term used in South Africa, including on the national census, for persons of mixed race ancestry (2014 est.)

IsiZulu (official) 22.7%, IsiXhosa (official) 16%, Afrikaans (official) 13.5%, English (official) 9.6%, Sepedi (official) 9.1%, Setswana (official) 8%, Sesotho (official) 7.6%, Xitsonga (official) 4.5%, siSwati (official) 2.5%, Tshivenda (official) 2.4%, isiNdebele (official) 2.1%, sign language 0.5%, other 1.6% (2011 est.)

Protestant 36.6% (Zionist Christian 11.1%, Pentecostal/Charismatic 8.2%, Methodist 6.8%, Dutch Reformed 6.7%, Anglican 3.8%), Catholic 7.1%, Muslim 1.5%, other Christian 36%, other 2.3%, unspecified 1.4%, none 15.1% (2001 census)

Demographic profile:
South Africa’s youthful population is gradually aging, as the country’s total fertility rate (TFR) has declined dramatically from about 6 children per woman in the 1960s to roughly 2.2 in 2014. This pattern is similar to fertility trends in South Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa, and sets South Africa apart from the rest of sub-Saharan Africa, where the average TFR remains higher than other regions of the world. Today, South Africa’s decreasing number of reproductive age women is having fewer children, as women increase their educational attainment, workforce participation, and use of family planning methods; delay marriage; and opt for smaller families. As the proportion of working-age South Africans has grown relative to children and the elderly, South Africa has been unable to achieve a demographic dividend because persistent high unemployment and the prevalence of HIV/AIDs have created a larger-than-normal dependent population. HIV/AIDS was also responsible for South Africa’s average life expectancy plunging to less than 43 years in 2008; it had only rebounded to approximately 50 years as of 2014. HIV/AIDS continues to be a serious public health threat, although awareness-raising campaigns and the wider availability of anti-retroviral drugs is stabilizing the number of new cases, enabling infected individuals to live longer, healthier lives, and reducing mother-child transmissions. Migration to South Africa began in the second half of the 17th century when traders from the Dutch East India Company settled in the Cape and started using slaves from South and southeast Asia (mainly from India but also from present-day Indonesia, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Malaysia) and southeast Africa (Madagascar and Mozambique) as farm laborers and, to a lesser extent, as domestic servants. The Indian subcontinent remained the Cape Colony’s main source of slaves in the early 18th century, while slaves were increasingly obtained from southeast Africa in the latter part of the 18th century and into the 19th century under British rule. After slavery was completely abolished in the British Empire in 1838, South Africa’s colonists turned to temporary African migrants and indentured labor through agreements with India and later China, countries that were anxious to export workers to alleviate domestic poverty and overpopulation. Of the more than 150,000 indentured Indian laborers hired to work in Natal’s sugar plantations between 1860 and 1911, most exercised the right as British subjects to remain permanently (a small number of Indian immigrants came freely as merchants). Because of growing resentment toward Indian workers, the 63,000 indentured Chinese workers who mined gold in Transvaal between 1904 and 1911 were under more restrictive contracts and generally were forced to return to their homeland. In the late 19th century and nearly the entire 20th century, South Africa’s then British colonies’ and Dutch states’ enforced selective immigration policies that welcomed “assimilable” white Europeans as permanent residents but excluded or restricted other immigrants. Following the Union of South Africa’s passage of a law in 1913 prohibiting Asian and other non-white immigrants and its elimination of the indenture system in 1917, temporary African contract laborers from neighboring countries became the dominant source of labor in the burgeoning mining industries. Others worked in agriculture and smaller numbers in manufacturing, domestic service, transportation, and construction. Throughout the 20th century, at least 40% of South Africa’s miners were foreigners; the numbers peaked at over 80% in the late 1960s. Mozambique, Lesotho, Botswana, and Swaziland were the primary sources of miners, and Malawi and Zimbabwe were periodic suppliers. Under apartheid, a “two gates” migration policy focused on policing and deporting illegal migrants rather than on managing migration to meet South Africa’s development needs. The exclusionary 1991 Aliens Control Act limited labor recruitment to the highly skilled as defined by the ruling white minority, while bilateral labor agreements provided exemptions that enabled the influential mining industry and, to a lesser extent, commercial farms, to hire temporary, low-paid workers from neighboring states. Illegal African migrants were often tacitly allowed to work for low pay in other sectors but were always under threat of deportation. The abolishment of apartheid in 1994 led to the development of a new inclusive national identity and the strengthening of the country’s restrictive immigration policy. Despite South Africa’s protectionist approach to immigration, the downsizing and closing of mines, and rising unemployment, migrants from across the continent believed that the country held work opportunities. Fewer African labor migrants were issued temporary work permits and, instead, increasingly entered South Africa with visitors’ permits or came illegally, which drove growth in cross-border trade and the informal job market. A new wave of Asian immigrants has also arrived over the last two decades, many operating small retail businesses. In the post-apartheid period, increasing numbers of highly skilled white workers emigrated, citing dissatisfaction with the political situation, crime, poor services, and a reduced quality of life. The 2002 Immigration Act and later amendments were intended to facilitate the temporary migration of skilled foreign labor to fill labor shortages, but instead the legislation continues to create regulatory obstacles. Although the education system has improved and brain drain has slowed in the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis, South Africa continues to face skills shortages in several key sectors, such as health care and technology. South Africa’s stability and economic growth has acted as a magnet for refugees and asylum seekers from nearby countries, despite the prevalence of discrimination and xenophobic violence. Refugees have included an estimated 350,000 Mozambicans during its 1980s civil war and, more recently, several thousand Somalis, Congolese, and Ethiopians. Nearly all of the tens of thousands of Zimbabweans who have applied for asylum in South Africa have been categorized as economic migrants and denied refuge.

Age structure:
0-14 years: 28.34% (male 7,718,511/female 7,667,830)
[see also: Age structure 0-14 years country ranks ]
15-24 years: 18.07% (male 4,865,807/female 4,943,707)
[see also: Age structure 15-24 years country ranks ]
25-54 years: 41.44% (male 11,372,944/female 11,130,874)
[see also: Age structure 25-54 years country ranks ]
55-64 years: 6.59% (male 1,662,874/female 1,915,908)
[see also: Age structure 55-64 years country ranks ]
65 years and over: 5.57% (male 1,269,551/female 1,752,698) (2016 est.)
[see also: Age structure 65 years and over country ranks ]
population pyramid:
A population pyramid illustrates the age and sex structure of a country's population and may provide insights about political and social stability, as well as economic development. The population is distributed along the horizontal axis, with males shown on the left and females on the right. The male and female populations are broken down into 5-year age groups represented as horizontal bars along the vertical axis, with the youngest age groups at the bottom and the oldest at the top. The shape of the population pyramid gradually evolves over time based on fertility, mortality, and international migration trends.

For additional information, please see the entry for Population pyramid on the Definitions and Notes page under the References tab.

Dependency ratios:
total dependency ratio: 52.1%
[see also: Dependency ratios - total dependency ratio country ranks ]
youth dependency ratio: 44.5%
[see also: Dependency ratios - youth dependency ratio country ranks ]
elderly dependency ratio: 7.7%
[see also: Dependency ratios - elderly dependency ratio country ranks ]
potential support ratio: 13.1% (2015 est.)
[see also: Dependency ratios - potential support ratio country ranks ]

Median age:
total: 26.8 years
[see also: Median age - total country ranks ]
male: 26.5 years
[see also: Median age - male country ranks ]
female: 27 years (2016 est.)
[see also: Median age - female country ranks ]
country comparison to the world: 145

Population growth rate:
0.99% (2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 116
[see also: Population growth rate country ranks ]

Birth rate:
20.5 births/1,000 population (2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 79
[see also: Birth rate country ranks ]

Death rate:
9.6 deaths/1,000 population (2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 51
[see also: Death rate country ranks ]

Net migration rate:
-0.9 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 140
[see also: Net migration rate country ranks ]

urban population: 64.8% of total population (2015)
[see also: Urbanization - urban population country ranks ]
rate of urbanization: 1.59% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)
[see also: Urbanization - rate of urbanization country ranks ]

Major urban areas - population:
Johannesburg (includes Ekurhuleni) 9.399 million; Cape Town (legislative capital) 3.66 million; Durban 2.901 million; PRETORIA (capital) 2.059 million; Port Elizabeth 1.179 million; Vereeniging 1.155 million (2015)

Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.02 male(s)/female
[see also: Sex ratio - at birth country ranks ]
0-14 years: 1.01 male(s)/female
[see also: Sex ratio - 0-14 years country ranks ]
15-24 years: 0.98 male(s)/female
[see also: Sex ratio - 15-24 years country ranks ]
25-54 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
[see also: Sex ratio - 25-54 years country ranks ]
55-64 years: 0.87 male(s)/female
[see also: Sex ratio - 55-64 years country ranks ]
65 years and over: 0.73 male(s)/female
[see also: Sex ratio - 65 years and over country ranks ]
total population: 0.98 male(s)/female (2016 est.)

Maternal mortality rate:
138 deaths/100,000 live births (2015 est.)
country comparison to the world: 38
[see also: Maternal mortality rate country ranks ]

Infant mortality rate:
total: 32 deaths/1,000 live births
[see also: Infant mortality rate - total country ranks ]
male: 35.5 deaths/1,000 live births
[see also: Infant mortality rate - male country ranks ]
female: 28.4 deaths/1,000 live births (2016 est.)
[see also: Infant mortality rate - female country ranks ]
country comparison to the world: 63

Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 63.1 years
[see also: Life expectancy at birth - total country ranks ]
male: 61.6 years
[see also: Life expectancy at birth - male country ranks ]
female: 64.6 years (2016 est.)
[see also: Life expectancy at birth - female country ranks ]
country comparison to the world: 190

Total fertility rate:
2.31 children born/woman (2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 89
[see also: Total fertility rate country ranks ]

Health expenditures:
8.8% of GDP (2014)
country comparison to the world: 42
[see also: Health expenditures country ranks ]

Physicians density:
0.78 physicians/1,000 population (2013)
[see also: Physicians density country ranks ]

Drinking water source:
improved: urban: 99.6% of population rural: 81.4% of population total: 93.2% of population
[see also: Drinking water source - Improved - total country ranks ]
unimproved: urban: 0.4% of population rural: 18.6% of population total: 6.8% of population (2015 est.)
[see also: Drinking water source - Unimproved - total country ranks ]

Sanitation facility access:
improved: urban: 69.6% of population rural: 60.5% of population total: 66.4% of population
[see also: Sanitation facility access - Total Improved country ranks ]
unimproved: urban: 30.4% of population rural: 39.5% of population total: 33.6% of population (2015 est.)
[see also: Sanitation facility access - Total UnImproved country ranks ]

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
19.2% (2015 est.)
country comparison to the world: 4
[see also: HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate country ranks ]

HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
6,984,600 (2015 est.)
country comparison to the world: 1
[see also: HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS country ranks ]

HIV/AIDS - deaths:
182,400 (2015 est.)
country comparison to the world: 2
[see also: HIV/AIDS - deaths country ranks ]

Major infectious diseases:
degree of risk: intermediate
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever
water contact disease: schistosomiasis (2016)

Obesity - adult prevalence rate:
25.6% (2014)
country comparison to the world: 24
[see also: Obesity - adult prevalence rate country ranks ]

Children under the age of 5 years underweight:
8.7% (2008)
country comparison to the world: 72
[see also: Children under the age of 5 years underweight country ranks ]

Education expenditures:
6.1% of GDP (2014)
country comparison to the world: 42
[see also: Education expenditures - percent of GDP country ranks ]

definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 94.3%
[see also: Literacy - total country ranks ]
male: 95.5%
[see also: Literacy - male country ranks ]
female: 93.1% (2015 est.)
[see also: Literacy - female country ranks ]

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education):
total: 13 years
[see also: School life expectancy - total country ranks ]
male: 12 years
[see also: School life expectancy - male country ranks ]
female: 14 years (2013)
[see also: School life expectancy - female country ranks ]

Unemployment, youth ages 15-24
total: 51.3%
[see also: Unemployment, youth ages 15-24 - total country ranks ]
male: 48%
[see also: Unemployment, youth ages 15-24 - male country ranks ]
female: 55.3% (2014 est.)
[see also: Unemployment, youth ages 15-24 - female country ranks ]
country comparison to the world: 6

NOTE: The information regarding South Africa on this page is re-published from the 2017 World Fact Book of the United States Central Intelligence Agency. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of South Africa PEOPLE 2017 information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about South Africa PEOPLE 2017 should be addressed to the CIA.

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This page was last modified 22-Feb-17
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