Statistician-General Pali Lehohla made the announcement on Thursday while releasing the mid-year population estimates for 2015. The 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.
Lehohla said there had been a decline in the crude birth rate from 25 births per 1 000 people in 2002 to 23 births per 1 000 people in 2005. The released figures of the estimates put South Africa’s population at just over 54.9 million people as at July 2015 – reflecting an increase of 1.65% between 2014 and 2015.
“With more workers and fewer young people to support, the country will have a window of opportunity for accelerated economic growth. The opportunity is referred to as the demographic dividend,” said Lehohla.
“The change in population structure alone cannot bring this demographic dividend about. There needs to be investment in health, education and economic development that creates sustainable jobs for the working population. Adherence to sound governance principles and transparency are also needed.”
The figures showed Gauteng remained the most populous province with almost 13.2 million inhabitants, followed by KwaZulu-Natal with a population of almost 10.9 million people. The two provinces together account for about 44% of the population in the country. The Northern Cape emerged as the least populated province with just under 1.2 million people.
The decline in fertility indicated increasing fertility control and ultimately the choice by women or couples when deciding the ideal number of children to have, added Lehohla.
According to Lehohla, 6.9 million South Africans infected with HIV increased by 2.7 million since 2002 to 6.19 million in 2015. He said approximately one fifth of South African women in their productive ages were HIV positive, adding antiretroviral treatment had extended the life span of many in South Africa who would have otherwise died at an early age.
“In 2010 and 2011, the number of Aids-related deaths increased marginally, thereafter declining to 151 040 in 2014 and increasing to 162 445 in 2015.”
Lehohla said the current life expectancy at birth was estimated at 62.5 years. The life expectancy in the country had increased over time and could only improve further if the necessary social, health and economic policies and interventions were refreshed to take into account the changing needs of the population, he added.