Age structural transition in South Africa

P.S. Nair


This chapter deals with the current age structure and the age structural transition (AST) underway in South Africa. We have used the national Census data for 1996 and 2001 and the Community survey data for 2007. In 2007, 31 percent of the population was enumerated below 15 years of age, 64 percent between 15- 64 and 5.4 percent 65+ implying the early stages of aging process. The median age in 2007 is 24.3 years, increased from 23 years in 1996. The proportion of young dependents is declining whereas that of the economically active and aged populations are increasing. Generally, the Black population appears younger and the Whites older. The other two ethnic groups are placed in the middle. This is, perhaps, a reflection of the differential fertility across the ethnic groups. The proportion of labour force population in 2007 is the highest for Asians & Indians followed by Whites; and the lowest for Blacks. So far as the proportion of the aged is concerned, Whites lead relatively high (12.4 %) as compared to coloured and Black population groups. During 1996-2007, the age structural transition for the total population is only marginal in South Africa. The median age of the total population grew from 23 years to 24.3 years, an increase of 5.6 percent. The female median age grew from 24.5 to 25.2 years, slightly better than that of males. The old age population has increased by 12.5 percent during the same period along with the global trend of female advantage. Again, the labour force population has increased by 5.5 percent. AST is highest for the white population, followed closely by Asians & Indians. This calls for continued higher investments in primary and secondary education, health care service delivery including reproductive health and social security. Again, for a country like South Africa where unemployment is quite high, the enormity of labour force (64%) has to be viewed seriously. Rapid employment generation, especially for the weaker groups, is the key. Further, one fifth (20.4 %) of the population is in the 15-24 years age group which is the target group for tertiary education. The slow process of AST among Black population warrants for preferential resource allocations especially in the areas of reproductive health and employment.

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