Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) today released mid-year population estimates which put South Africa’s population at just over 54,9 million as at July 2015. The population increased by 1,65% between 2014 and 2015, with Gauteng remaining the most populous province, with almost 13,2 million inhabitants, followed by KwaZulu-Natal with a population of almost 10,9 million. These two provinces account for about 44% of the population in the country. The Northern Cape remains the least populated province, with just under 1,2 million people. The mid-year population estimates provide important information on the size and distribution of the population by age, gender and location, which is vital to planning at all levels of government.
National development priorities can only be realised with an understanding of demographic phenomena i.e. mortality, fertility and migration. For example, the National Development Plan states that life expectancy at birth by 2030 should be 70 years. The current life expectancy at birth is estimated at 62,5 years. Life expectancy in South Africa has increased over time, but can only improve further provided the necessary social, health and economic policies and interventions are refreshed to take into account the changing needs of the population.
There has been a decline in the crude birth rate (CBR) from 25 births per 1 000 people in 2002 to 23 births per 1 000 people in 2015. The decline in fertility over time is indicative of increasing fertility control and subsequently the choice in deciding the ideal number of children to have by women or couples. With fewer births each year, a country’s young dependent population grows smaller in relation to the working-age population. With more workers and fewer young people to support, a country will have a window of opportunity for accelerated economic growth. This window is referred to as the demographic dividend. The change in population structure alone cannot bring this demographic dividend about – there also needs to be investment in health, education, economic development that creates sustainable jobs for the working population, as well as adherence to sound governance principles and transparency.
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