SA’s population dilemma: growing dependence on ill-equipped youth
A slowing birth rate means SA will start losing its demographic dividend
SA’s population grew to 56.52-million by the middle of 2017, which is 902,200 more people than the country had in the same period in 2016.
However, the country finds itself in a dilemma, where the portion of the population in retirement age has increased, while the birth rate has slowed, and so has growth in the youth population.
This is according to figures released by Statistics SA on Monday.
Statistician-general Pali Lehohla said the country remained a largely youthful population, with 30% of the total population being under the age of 15.
However, Lehohla told reporters during a briefing in Pretoria on Monday that the already high but stagnant number of youth could not necessarily be relied on to spur further economic growth, as a result of unemployment and lacklustre education outcomes.
Lehohla told reporters that the average rate at which women of child-bearing age were giving birth experienced a marginal decrease — from 2.7 in 2007 to 2.4 in 2017 — while the life expectancy rate was at a high of 64 years.
"We are in a demographic winter, with women on average giving birth to 2.41 children. As it declines it means that the demographic bulge which may translate into a dividend has shrunk," said Lehohla.
He said this challenge stemmed from the declining population growth rates among young people between the ages of 25 and 34, combined with the increasing growth rates among the elderly aged 60 and above.
"Increases in social grants will be a challenge in terms of how affordable it will be to meet demands. The question that must arise is, how will SA Incorporated respond to the childbirth patterns?"
He said the matter was compounded by the lack of clarity on how the government could continue to afford the social grant provisions currently given out to elderly and indigent South Africans in the long term.
"The burden of the increasing category will fall on the declining. The younger one has a high unemployment rate, so even if the old ones depend on them, you are depending on nothing. In fact because of unemployment they are depending on the grants of the older ones," he said.
The Stats SA figures on HIV prevalence showed 12.57% of SA’s population was infected with the virus in 2017, up from 11.7% in 2007.
Lehohla said this was a function of people with HIV living longer, due to improved access to treatment.
Women of childbearing age remained the most severely affected, with an HIV prevalence rate of 21.17%, up from 20.79% in 2007.
The prevalence rate among the youth continued to fall, however — to 4.64% in 2017 from 6.6% in 2007.
In other insights from Stats SA, the country had 450,000 deaths since July 2016. In the total population, females make up 51% and males account for 49%.
Regarding population groups, 81% are African, whites make up 8%, Indians make up 2%, while coloureds grew to 9%.