South Africa’s continued progression through the lens of the 2022 Census


In recent years, South Africa has experienced significant demographic shifts, marked notably by a growing population, with a substantial portion of this growth attributed to the youth demographic. As the nation’s youthful populace continues to expand, it becomes increasingly imperative for policymakers, researchers, and social planners to review census data meticulously. This thorough examination not only aids in understanding the evolving needs and aspirations of the country’s citizens but also provides invaluable insights crucial for the formulation of effective policies and government programmes.


Since the dawn of democracy, South Africa has undertaken three comprehensive national censuses, each serving as a vital milestone in the nation’s post-apartheid era. On October 10, 2023, Statistics South Africa unveiled the highly anticipated fourth installment of its 2022 census results. This momentous release follows the three previous censuses conducted in 1996, 2001, and 2011, marking yet another pivotal juncture in the country’s demographic analysis. The recent enumeration survey is the first-ever digitally conducted using three collection modes: telephonic (CATI), online (CAWI) and face-to-face (CAPI).


Findings from the survey indicate that South Africa’s population now stands at 62 million, a significant increase  from 51,7 million in 2011.  Over 17,8 million households were recorded in this census, taking it up from the 14% in 2011 and double the 9 million reported in the 2001 census. Remarkably, over 50% of the country’s populace is concentrated in just three provinces: Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, and the Western Cape, underscoring the urbanisation trend that has defined South Africa’s recent decades. Approximately 51% of the population has a gender representation that is female and approximately 48,9% that is male. Furthermore, the data also reflects that more women attain higher education qualifications than men, despite that unemployment figures show higher unemployment among women than men.


Indeed, the recent census data reveals a remarkable improvement in the living conditions of South Africa’s citizens, reflecting significant strides in social and infrastructural developments. One of the most encouraging trends is the decline in the number of households residing in informal dwellings, which reduced from 13.6% in 2011 to 8.1% in 2022. The percentage of households lacking piped water inside their dwelling and/or yard dropped significantly, reaching 8.9% in 2022 from 19.6% in 1996. Additionally, an impressive 94% of households now have access to electricity, a substantial improvement from the 58% reported in 1996. The statistics showcase a notable increase in access to basic amenities. This substantial progress can be directly attributed to the government’s steadfast commitment to ensuring equal access for all citizens, particularly the majority who were historically marginalised due to apartheid and its discriminatory policies.


Another interesting observation is that there are about 5.8% of households that still maintain landlines which has declined  from over 24% in 2001, while 50.3% of households own radios which has also decreased from 73% in 2001. Conversely over 92% have access to cell phones which has increased from 32% in 2001 while 79% possess televisions which has increased from 52% in 2001. Lastly, 79% of people now have access to the internet, a significant increase from 35% in 2011.


The insights gleaned from the 2022 census results provide a nuanced perspective on South Africa’s social and economic landscape, shedding light on both the achievements and challenges faced by the nation. While significant progress has been made since the advent of democracy, particularly in improving access to essential services and infrastructure, the data also reveals persistent disparities that demand focused attention and targeted interventions. Some of these disparities include regional discrepancies such as limited access to piped water and sanitation facilities in provinces like Limpopo and the Eastern Cape which emphasizes the need for region-specific development initiatives.


The release of these comprehensive results underscore the competency and independence of Statistics South Africa. It reaffirms the nation’s commitment to transparent governance and the provision of an unfiltered view of the country’s socio-economic landscape. As South Africa continues to evolve, the lessons derived from this data will play a crucial role in shaping policies, fostering equitable development, and steering the nation towards a more just and prosperous future.