South Africa has held three official censuses in its recent democratic history: in 1996, 2001 and 2011. The censuses have revealed both a growing population – from 41 million to 52 million – and a significant shift in the country’s racial profile.
This is an animation to break your heart. The final injustice of any unequal society is that privileged people live long lives, while the people who do the work that creates privilege live much shorter lives.
Richer countries say the peak of the Aids epidemic was in 1985. But the disease hit South Africa only in the 1990s, just as we were starting to build a new society and economy out of the wreck of apartheid. The epidemic peaked here 10 years later.
In South Africa’s provinces, the size of the land and the number of people living there mean very different population densities. Gauteng, small but crowded, has an average of 785 people per square kilometre. The empty but enormous Northern Cape has a population density of only three people for each square kilometre.
In 2017 South Africa was home to 56.5-million people. Black South Africans numbered 45.7-million, or 80.8% of the total. There were 5-million coloured South Africans (8.7% of the population), 4.5-million white South Africans (7.9%) and 1.4-million Indian or Asian South Africans (2.6%).
Black men have the shortest lives, and white women the longest. Find out more about the country’s population structure with this infographic charting the realities of age, race and sex in South Africa.
South Africa has nine provinces, which vary in size from the small city region of Gauteng – home to more than a quarter of the population – to the great Northern Cape, by far the largest province but with the smallest population.
The population of each of South Africa’s nine provinces varies enormously. According to Statistics South Africa’s 2017 population estimates, the most populous provinces are Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal, and the emptiest the Northern Cape and Free State.
The distribution of South Africa’s population groups reveals the country’s history. Find out more with these maps of where black, coloured, Indian and white South Africans live today, according to the 2011 census.
There’s a lot of talk of South Africa’s population being dominated by the youth. But we’re less youthful than we have been for decades. The end of apartheid, better healthcare, widespread social welfare and greater economic opportunities all mean South Africans are now able to live longer lives.
From 1960 to the late 1980s, apartheid laws kept families and communities in poor rural areas. Young men alone were allowed to move to the cities, where their labour was valuable. After the end of apartheid, from the mid-1990s, urbanisation increased rapidly.
The death rate of children is the starkest indicator of the health of a country’s society and economy. In 1974 South Africa’s mortality rate – deaths per 1,000 live births – was 88.1 for infants under a year and 125.5 for under-fives. By 2016 it had dropped to 34.2 for infants and 43.3 for under-fives.
Charting South Africans’ life expectancy is to track the country’s modern history. In 1960, a time of terrible apartheid abuse, an average newborn child was expected to have a lifespan of only 52 years – 50 years for boys. In 2015, life expectancy was 62 years.
Each of South Africa’s 11 languages has a fascinating vocabulary, with some words and phrases influenced by other languages, and many unique to that language. Learn a little South African with these animations.