Socio-economic conditions in South Africa 2010

South Africa: Population and land area by province 2006


Total population, mid 2006 (millions)      

Percentage of total estimate

Percentage of land area









Eastern Cape








Western Cape








North West




Free State




Northern Cape






Source: Statistics South Africa (2006) presented in InfoDev 2008

South Africa Population 2010 (millions)
African 39.682 79.4%
Coloured 4.424 8.5%
Asian 1.299 2.6%
White 4.584 9.2%
Total 49.991 100

Western Cape population by racial categorisation 2001

Census 2001



















Source: Elsenburg 2005

Source: South Africa Yearbook 2006/7and Statistics South Africa (2004: Labor Force Survey 2001 and 2004). Compiled at InfoDev2008 above

Data from The Presidency 2010 Development Indicators


  Population, Employment and Unemployment 2010

  • Total population 49.991m
  • Total Employed 12.742m
  • Participation rate (working-age population employed and unemployed) 54.3%
  • Labour absorbtion (working-age population employed) 40.8%
  • Labour absorption in Western Cape 52.9%, Eastern Cape 30.8, Limpopo 28.5% 
  • Unemployment Rate 24.2% 2009



Inequality by income distribution

There are huge income inequalities with 70% of income accruing to the richest 20% and the poorest 10% getting less than 0.6% in 2008. 


Even more worrying than this is that the percentage of income received by the poorest 10% of the population has fallen slightly between 1993 and 2008 from 0.63% to 0.57% while that for the richest 10% has fallen marginally from 54.8 to 53.1% in the same period.


The income share for the richest 20% has fallen from 72.9 to 70% in the same period. (my analysis) But % of GDP spent on social grants has only risen from 2.9% in 2003/4 to 3.5% in 2009/10.



Using a R6,288 (£492/€626) per annum poverty line the percentage of those lvining in poverty  decreased from 58% in 2000 to 49% in 2008.


Using a R3,396

(£266/€338) per annum poverty line the percentage decreased from 38% in 2000 to 22% in 2008.


The decline in poverty headcount is largely due to an increase in social grant uptake.



The 3m subsidised housing units have been built since 1994 (against a planned total of 3.9m - a shoftfall of 900,000).  This has raised percentage of households in a formal dwelling from 64% (1996) to 76.2% (2009). The perercentage of households living in informal dwellings has fallen from 16% to 13.5% in the same period,  those in traditional structures has fallen from 20% to 10.4%.


Drinking Water

93.8% of the population had access to potable water where this meant access to a 'minimum quantity of 25 litres of potable water per person per day within 200 meters of a household not interrupted for more than seven days in any year.'



The number of households, by one measure has increased from 10m to over 13.5m (35%) between 1993 and 2010. In that period the percentage of households with access to basic acceptable sanitation (a ventilated improved pit latrine) has increased from approximately 50% to 75%.  Approximately 3.4m households did not have access to basic sanitation in 2009/10.



Access to Electricity

The percentage of households with access to electricity has risen from 51% to 75% over the same period but has slowed down in recent years due to the need to develop the infrastructure in areas without electricity.


Land Claims and Reform

Ninety-five percent of the 79 696 land claims that were lodged since 1994 have been settled involving a cumulative total of 2.625m HA.


Since 1994, approximately 3.1 million hectares of agricultural land has been redistributed. The goal of distributing 30% of the country's  agricultural land by 2014' remains a challenge'. In 2009/10 the target for redistribution was 656 000 Ha but that achieved was 240 156 (36% of the planned total).


Life Expectancy

Life expectancy figures are contested but seem to show a shocking decline in both male and female life expectancy between 2001 and 2005 (52.3 to 50.7 years and 57.5 to 54.7 years respectively) before some improvement to 53.3 for men and 55.2 for women. 


HIV/Aids (which must include the terrible Mbeki neglect of the pandemic) is blamed for the fall in life expectancy. Regional differences in life expectancy between the poorer Eastern and richer Western Capes are stark - over 6.3 years for men and 7.7 years for women with no decline in the differential between 2001 and 2011.  Life expectancy is not broken down by racial categories in The President's data.


Infant Mortality and immunisation

The immunisation of children has been successful with an increase from 63% to 95.5% in 2009 but the maternal mortality ratio has risen disastrously from a baseline figure of 150 maternal deaths per 100 000 live births to 625 in 2007. This is absolutely clear in the Draft 2010 South Africa Millenium Development Goal report (pp. 66-73) produced by the government but it is fudged in the President's Report.


HIV/Aids and access to antiretrovirals 

HIV prevalence increased for all age categories except men between 20-64 between 2001 and 2010.  For the total population it rose from 9.4% to 10.5%. Access to antiretroviral drugs amongst people with advanced HIV has increased from 13.9% to 41.6%  between 2005 and 2009 see Draft 2010 South Africa Millenium Development Goal report p. 75 which also shows a falling HIV prevalence in the 15-24 years population from 10.3% to 8.7% between 2005-8.



TB notifications have increased dramatically between 1994 (90 292) and 2009 (406 082) but treatment has kept pace with the rising numbers - which are linked to the impact of the HIV/AIDS pandemic.


Source for all above: The Presidency - Development Indicators 2010

From InfoDev above - to be edited


South Africa’s economy, by far the largest in Africa, has a per capita GNI of US$3.63, which makes it part of the upper middle-income group of semi-industrialized economies of sub-Saharan Africa as classified by the World Bank.

There are five million registered taxpayers and in the past four to six years the tax burden percentage has been at a stable 26% per capita (refer to Annex 8 for changes in tax revenues). Debt by household as a percentage of household income is 55%, with savings as low as 0.6% (SARB, 2006). Since 1994, South Africa has had an average positive economic growth rate of 3.2%. However, GDP per capita is not higher than it was 30 years ago.

The government is spending around 27% of GDP and has an accumulated budget deficit of R508 billion, of which 12.5% is international and 87.5% domestic (SARB, 2006).


Government spending has changed in the past few years, focusing more on socio-economic spending ( Income support to vulnerable households through social security and social assistance grants has been the fastest growing category of government expenditure since 2001. It was R70 billion in 2005, representing 3.4% of the GDP.


Table 2: Social grants for 2006

Type of grant


Number of beneficiaries






Child support grant


More than 7 million (May 2006)


516,000 households


2,875,000 households


Foster care grant


330,000 (May 2006)




Disability grant


1.3 million


432,000 households


894,000 households


Old age grant


More than 2 million


2,071,000 households


2,174,000 household


Source: South Africa Yearbook 2006/7and Statistics South Africa (2004: Labor Force Survey 2001 and 2004).

Statistics South Africa estimated that in 1995 about 28% of the households and 48% of the population were living below the estimated poverty line. This was calculated on the basis of expenditure, thus excluding access to services and assets This figure increased to 33% in 1999.


According to SAARF (2005), 6.3 million or 60% of households are poor. These households contain roughly 28 million persons, or 62% of the 2005 population.


The poorest 20% of the population showed an increase of 30% in real income terms between1994 and 2004. Social grants make up more than half of the income of the poorest 20% of households, doubling in real terms between 2000 and 2005.

South Africa's economically active population is estimated at 16.8 million. Since 1995, the population has grown by an average of 2% annually, but the economically active population grew by an average of more than 4% annually.


After accounting for job loss, the number of jobs has grown by 20% since 1995, but the economically active population has grown by 40% (South Africa Yearbook, 2006/7). The labor supply outperforms the demand – most of the labor force is unskilled.


South Africa has an unemployment figure of over 26%, one of the highest rates of unemployment in the world (Statistics South Africa, 2006). Youths make up 70% of all unemployed persons, 46% of the working population, and 33% of the self-employed (

Ditto as above


Economic development indicators clearly indicate that South Africa performs below average in almost all social indicators. It ranks 121 among 171 countries – it has a Human Development Index (HDI) of 0.653, which places it in a group of countries categorized as achieving 'medium human development' (UNDP, 2004).


Despite the growing government socio-economic investment, the country has experienced a disquietingly sharp decrease in HDI since the transformation in 1994.

30% of South Africa households, 40% of the population, have a per capita income of less than R10 per day, less than R300 per month.


A further 19.5% of South Africa households have a per capita income of R10-20 per day, R300 to R599 per month.

Ditto as above


The country’s adult literacy (15 years and older) is 82.4%

GDP per capita is R23,403 (2006)

The combined gross enrolment ratio for primary, secondary and tertiary schools is 77%.


South Africa has a life expectancy of 47 years, one of the lowest among upper middle-income countries.


It has an HIV/AIDS infection rate of 20.1% among adults, with 4.9 million currently infected.


South Africa is ranked 53 among 102 countries with a calculated Human Poverty Index (HPI) of 30.9.

Despite numerous efforts by the government, South Africa is experiencing a widening development gap, which has led to even further increases in unemployment.


A direct consequence of this growing unemployment is increased poverty at all levels of South African society.


This has numerous socio-economic implications, such as loss of self-esteem, increase in suicide statistics, and increase in crime and violence.