South African life expectancy on the rise

Thanks to the world’s largest antiretroviral treatment programme, South Africans’ life expectancy is now 64 years, up from 53 years in 2006 and putting the country on track to achieve the National Development Plan goal of a 70-year life expectancy by 2030.

Life expectancy on the rise
South Africans can now expect to live far longer lives than they could a decade ago, according to Stats SA. (Image: DFID, CC BY-NC-ND, via Flickr)

Mary Alexander

South Africa now has a population of 56.5-million people, according to the 2017 mid-year population estimates by Statistics South Africa. The country’s population has increased by 902,200 over the past year.

A key finding is that life expectancy is now 64 years. This is an extra decade of projected average lifespan since a decade ago. In 2006, women could expect to live to 54.7 years and men to just 52.3 years, with a population average of 53.5 years.

The gain can be credited to the massive rollout of antiretroviral (ARV) therapy since 2006, according to Stats SA. The country is on track to achieve the National Development Plan goal of a 70-year life expectancy by 2030.

The success of the ARV campaign is also shown in the number of South Africans living with HIV. Today, according to the Stats SA estimates, 7.06-million South Africans are HIV-positive – 13 of every 100 people. That may seem high, but it’s a sign that HIV is being brought under control. It’s also now more of a chronic condition, rather than a fatal one.

“Improved access and uptake of ARVs in South Africa has enabled HIV-positive people to live longer and healthier lives, leading to an increase in the HIV population over time,” Statistician-General Dr Pali Lehohla explained in a presentation of the estimates.

While more people are living with HIV, the rate of infection in young people is dropping. “HIV prevalence among youth aged 18 to 24 has declined from 7.3% in 2002 to 4.6% in 2017,” Lehohla said. “The decline in prevalence among the youth is an indication of decline in the rate of new infections.”

South Africans are living longer

South Africa’s population in 2017

Sex

Of the population of 56.52 million people, 28.9 million are female (51%) and 27.6 million are male (49%).

Population groups

Four out of every five people are black African. Roughly one in 13 fall into the coloured population group, one in 13 are white, and one in every 50 people are Indian South Africans.

  • Black South Africans: 45.7 million (81%)
  • Coloured South Africans: 5 million (9%)
  • White South Africans: 4.5 million (8%)
  • Indian South Africans: 1.4 million (2%)

Population groups in South Africa 2017

Provinces

Gauteng is home to a full quarter of South Africa’s population, and KwaZulu-Natal to almost a fifth. The Northern Cape has only 2% of the population.

  • Gauteng: 14.3 million (25%)
  • KwaZulu-Natal: 11 million (19%)
  • Western Cape: 6.5 million (12%)
  • Eastern Cape: 6.5 million (12%)
  • Limpopo: 5.8 million (10%)
  • Mpumalanga: 4.4 million (8%)
  • North West: 3.9 million (7%)
  • Free State: 2.9 million (5%)
  • Northern Cape: 1.2 million (2%)

Provincial population of South Africa 2017

Children

Thirty percent of South Africans are 15 years or younger.

The working age population in Gauteng is significantly larger than that of the Eastern Cape, which has a younger population with more children.

Limpopo (35%) and the Eastern Cape (34%) have the highest proportion of people aged 15 and under.

Gauteng (25%) and the Western Cape (26%) have the lowest.

Births

The birth rate is an average of 2.41 children per woman, down from 2.73 children per woman in 2007.

“As the rate at which births occur declines, the young dependent population grows smaller in relation to the working-age population,” Lehohla said.

“With more workers and fewer young people to support, a country will have a window of opportunity for accelerated economic growth.”

Mortality

Infant mortality has dropped from 48.1 infant deaths per 1,000 live births in 2002 to 32.8 per 1,000 in 2017.

The crude death rate is down from 13.4 deaths per 1,000 people in 2002 to nine deaths per 1,000 people in 2017.

Migration

Stats SA estimates that from 2016 to 2021, South Africa’s population will be swelled by 1.07-million immigrants from elsewhere in Africa, and 59,432 immigrants from Asia. It also estimates that over the same period, 112,740 white South Africans will emigrate from the country.

Over the past five years, one in every two international migrants has settled in Gauteng.

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