The state of the nation

Commuters make their way home from
work using the Noord Street minibus
taxi rank in Johannesburg. (Image: Chris
For more photos, visit the image library.)

The first day of school. 97.5% of
children between seven and 15 years of
age attend an educational institute in
2007, compared with 96.5% in 2002.
(Image: Emily Venter, City of Joburg. For
more photos, visit the image library.)

Janine Erasmus

The results of the annual general household survey, compiled by Statistics South Africa (Stats SA), the country’s national statistics board, have been released. The survey was established to provide data on the level of development in the country in terms of living conditions in South African homes and the quality of service delivery in key sectors.

Stats SA has conducted a general household survey annually since 2002.

The survey collects data and reports on a range of topics including education, access to and quality of healthcare, the labour market, dwellings, access to services and facilities such as water and electricity, means and availability of transport, and quality of life.

Fieldwork was conducted by 784 trained staff and 260 supervisors and coordinators who visited over 34 000 homes across the country to conduct face-to-face interviews. A total of 29 311 interviews were successfully concluded. This is equivalent to 84% of all homes visited, a decrease of 2% from the 86% response in 2006. Reasons for unsuccessful interviews include refusals, absenteeism, vacant homes, or homes that had been converted into shops or small businesses but were still listed as dwellings.

The 2007 general household survey revealed that the population increased from 45.5-million to 47.9-million in the five years between July 2002 and July 2007.


The percentage of people between the ages of seven and 15 who are attending school increased from 96.5% in 2002 to 97.9% in 2007. The most common reason for not being in school was an inability to pay the fees.

The second most common reason, given by 19.3% of interviewees, is employment, while 8.7% mentioned family commitments and 7.8% regarded education as useless or unimportant.

The national Department of Education’s drive to boost enrolment at pre-school level and promote access to Early Childhood Development programmes is showing results, with 16.6% of children up to four years old attending an educational institute, compared to 7.6% in 2002. The percentage of five-year-olds at school increased from 40,1% in 2002 to 60,4% in 2007, and the percentage of six-year-olds receiving schooling also increased from 70% to 87,7%. The age group from birth to nine years is specifically targeted by the education department.

The percentage of individuals with more than a primary education increased from 63.5% to 69.4%, and those who completed their schooling up to Grade 12 increased from 22,1% to 23,6%. The number of people who are 20 years and older with no formal education dropped from 11,8% to 9,3% in 2007. Of the latter, 7,1% are men and 11,3% are women.

Just 9.8% of the population over 20 have completed some tertiary education, although this figure is 0.7% higher than in 2002.


Satisfaction levels with the public health sector rose from 81.6% in 2002 to 87.6% in 2007, and there was a marginal increase in satisfaction with the private health sector from 95.4% to 96.5% between 2002 and 2007.

In the month preceding the survey – June 2007 – just 11.1% of people were ill or injured and of these 79.7% sought professional help, while 73.2% of those who were ill and did not seek help said it was not necessary. Other reasons for not seeking help were the expense of healthcare, followed by distance to the health worker.

Only 7.4% of black South Africans have medical aid, while 18.9% of coloured South Africans, 31.9% of Indians or Asians, and 66.5% of white South Africans are covered. The number of white South Africans with medical aid has declined since 2002 while the number of black South Africans with medical aid remains stable. Overall, the number of people covered by medical aid has decreased from 15.3% in 2002 to 14.3% in 2007.


The total number of employed people increased from 11 145 000 in 2002 to 12 720 000 in 2007. Unemployment figures continued the downward trend, with a rate of 24.8% in July 2007 compared with 28.6% in July 2006. The July 2007 figure is 0.7% lower than the rate reflected by the March 2007 labour force survey, also conducted by Stats SA.

In specific sectors, the construction, trade and service industries have grown the most in terms of the absolute number of people employed. The trade industry has also gained the largest number of skilled individuals, from 12.7% in 2002 to 17.7% in 2007.

Employment in the agricultural and mining sectors decreased, from 1 287 000 in 2002 to 908 000 in 2007 and from 556 000 in 2002 to 484 000 in 2007 respectively. However, the number of skilled people in the agricultural industry grew from 2.1% in 2002 to 5.5% in 2007, while in the manufacturing sector this number dropped from 18.9% in 2002 to 16.6% in 2007.

Of all those employed, 163 000 are over the age of 65, and these individuals work mainly in the services, trade and agricultural sectors.


The total number of households in South Africa increased from 11.5-million in 2002 to 13.3-million in 2007. However, the percentage of households in informal settlements increased from 12.7% in 2002 to 15.4% in 2007. More than two-thirds of those interviewed owned or partly owned their dwellings.

More households have access to electricity, with 76.1% in 2002 compared to 81.5% in 2007. The Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng provinces have the lowest levels of electricity access, but the Eastern Cape, along with Limpopo, reports the biggest increase in the percentage of households that are connected.

Access to piped or tap water, whether on- or off-site, has also increased in a number of provinces, notably the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo. Water access is lowest in the Eastern Cape. The majority of those who receive piped water from their municipality gave a positive rating for the service.

Fewer households were affected by hunger, with a decline in percentages of afflicted adults and children from 6.9% to 2% and from 6.7% to 2% respectively.

Those depending on social welfare services are greatest in number in the Eastern Cape (19.1%), Limpopo (19%) and Free State (16.2%). Overall, between 2002 and 2007 the percentage of welfare recipients has risen sharply from 4% to 14%.

Mobile phone ownership jumped dramatically from 35% in 2002 to 73.7% in 2007, while radio ownership remained largely the same as previous years and television ownership increased from 56.5% to 67% between 2002 and 2007.

The complete general household survey for 2007, as well as those dating back to 2002, can be downloaded from the Stats SA website.

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