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SA’s population has increased to 62 million — a challenge for government to provide basic services

SA’s population has increased to 62 million — a challenge for government to provide basic services
Statistician-General of South Africa Risenga Maluleke. (Photo: Gallo Images / Frennie Shivambu)

In some areas, access to basic services from the government is growing but the services being provided are not reliable. This is more so in the provision of water to households, which faces major disruptions. 

South Africa’s population has increased from 51.7 million in 2011 to 62 million in 2022, and the government is increasingly finding it difficult to provide basic services that are reliable and face no major disruptions to the populace. 

The census 2022, which was conducted by Statistics South Africa and the findings of which were unveiled on Tuesday 10 October, has found the government’s provision of most basic services to the population has largely increased since 2011. This was when the last census was conducted by Statistics South Africa. 

62,027,503 and counting — a visual gauge of the Census 2022 data

Good news

The good news is that between 2011 and 2022, more households had access to piped water and those without water have been declining. Over this period, more households had access to a flush toilet while the use of bucket toilets was also reported to have declined. And the proportion of households being electrified and using electricity has also increased. 

Bad news

But the bad news is that while access to services from the government is growing, the services being provided are not reliable. This is more so in the provision of piped water to households, which faces major disruptions

The census has found that the number of households increased from 14.4 million in 2011 to 17.8 million in 2022, with most (or 65%) of these being considered formal dwellings (made with brick/concrete structures). 

Of the 17.8 million households in 2022, almost half have experienced water interruptions for two or more consecutive days. Of the households, the Northern Cape had the highest proportion of experienced water cuts (65.8%), followed by the Northwest (65.2%), Mpumalanga (60.9%), Eastern Cape (59.2%), KwaZulu-Natal (57%),  and Limpopo (54.5%). The lowest occurrence of water disruption was recorded in the Western Cape (27.7%) and Gauteng (40.5%) was considered to have the least water interruptions by the census respondents. Most households (about 70.8%) had access to a flush toilet across South Africa, but pit latrines (without ventilation) accounted for 12.5% and 2.1% for bucket toilets. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Water shedding is our next big challenge, but it can be prevented if we tackle the causes now

Power to South Africa

The census data did not delve into interruptions to other services, mainly electricity. In a briefing with journalists, Statistics South Africa officials said people who participated in the census were not asked about disruptions to electricity. The question will be asked in a follow-up survey that seeks to verify or correct the initial census findings.  

The main finding of the census on electricity is that the proportion of households using electricity as the main source for lighting increased from 84.7% in 2011 to 94.7%. The use of paraffin and candles as the main source of energy for lighting also decreased over this period. Statistics South Africa found that electricity was the main source of energy for lighting across all provinces, with 94.7% of the 17.8 million households reporting so. 


Another problem that the government is grappling with is homelessness across the country. There were 55,719 homeless people as recorded in the census 2022, with most people without a roof over their heads being in Gauteng (25,384), the Western Cape (9,743), and KwaZulu-Natal (7,768). The main reason given for homelessness by both men and women was joblessness, underscoring the economic and unemployment crisis gripping the nation. 

The census 2022 excludes income and expenditure data, mortality, employment, and unemployment data to extrapolate changes in poverty, inequality, and quality of life trends. In the previous census, Statistics South Africa included such data, but its officials said the data is published by the agency separately. 

Other findings 

South Africa’s population now stands at 62 million, with all provinces recording a growth in their population since 2011. Gauteng recorded the highest population (15 million), followed by KwaZulu-Natal (12.4 million), while the Northern Cape and Free State reported the lowest population sizes of 1.4 million and 2.9 million respectively. 

The 62 million population constituted 51.5% of women while 48.5% were men. Black Africans remain the dominant population group at 81.4%, followed by the coloured population at 8.2%. The white population percentage decreased to 7.3% in 2022 from 8.9% in 2011, while the percentage for Indians/Asians increased slightly from 2.5% in 2011 to 2.7% in 2022. Statistics South Africa officials said the white people population has been declining since 1996 but the reason for this is not known. It could be due to a range of factors, including emigration trends. 

South Africa remains a young population with the country’s median age increasing to 28 years in 2022 from 25 years in 2011. South Africa is a country that also continues to see an increase in the arrival of international migrants. There were more than 2.4 million international migrants, which equates to 3% of the population. Most of the migrants came from Zimbabwe (45%), followed by Mozambique (18.7%) and Lesotho (10.2%).

The Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns delayed the execution and release of the census, which was initially scheduled to be released in 2021. It was also the first census that was conducted digitally, in addition to door-to-door surveying by Statistics South Africa agents. When asked if conducting the census digitally would distort its findings considering that access to the internet remains a challenge in South Africa, Statistics South Africa said this factor was considered. The officials said its online platform for people to participate in its census did not require mobile data/internet because it was zero-rated. DM 


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  • Matthew Quinton says:

    Shouldn’t it say more households have access to pipes and wires since the actual water and power are kind of… y’know…er… ja!

  • Alan Salmon says:

    SA has been adding one million people to the population every year since 2001, but the available jobs, water, electricity and contributing tax payers remain relatively unchanged. This is a disaster !!!!

  • Ben Harper says:

    And how many of those 62 Million pay Personal Income Tax? Or should I ask what is the percentage increase in Income Tax payer? Oh wait, hasn’t the tax base shrunk substantially in the same time frame?

  • Martin Neethling says:

    Adding 10 million people to our population in a decade speaks directly to our porous borders. And without the commensurate increase in formal employment and the expansion of our income tax base, we have a clue to SA’s fiscal squeeze. Depending on electricity as the main source of lighting rose from 85% to 95%, but Eskom now recovers less from its consumer base than in 2011, adding further clarity to that SOE’s plight. That the white population now sits at 7.3% must surely pose uncomfortable questions regarding what the exact purpose is of the ANC’s ever widening armoury of race-based laws, when the Black African percentage of the population now sits north of 81%. In fact this census, taken as a whole, provides a cold, harsh reckoning for the ANC’s policymaking, its poor executional skills, its lack of will to lead, and its obsession with ideology. That it casts it in such a bad light might go some way to explain the long delay with the release of the census.

    • Ashley Stone says:

      Well said.

    • Ellis Mortimer says:

      So true. The government should be encouraging or offering incentives to people to have fewer children. Change the social grant qualifying rules or pay more to women who have no children. Even if the combined efforts of government and the private sector manage to create a million jobs by the time of the next census the number of job seekers will be double that. Besides employment, over population negatively affects education, health services, housing availability, other basic services and consequently crime. I shudder.

    • D'Esprit Dan says:

      Spot on. The census, when read in conjunction with our current state as a nation, reveals little more than how utterly useless the ANC is. Although it’s worse than that: the ANC now seems fairly comfortable hiding behind the façade of a useless ideologically-handicapped party, when the reality is that incompetence and failed policy are the fig leaf for rampant corruption and blatant theft. Imagine being so putrid that being called stupid and inept doesn’t faze you, because you’re stealing enough to raise a very well manicured and bejewelled middle finger at your accusers!

    • Mario de Abreu says:

      100% agree. While there are still tax payers left in SA many more will come across the border and many more births will occur, Diminishing tax revenues due to emigration will also continue until the 2 graphs meet. At that point no more sassa grants, no more grants for irresponsible breeding and no more school feeding. If the ANC is not kicked out of power next year then you can expect a Sudan type famine here in the coming years.

  • Raymond Auerbach says:

    The first comments on this article are mainly fairly cynical, although they make valid points! However, we should also look carefully at the statistics with some pride: in spite of all our educational problems, the numbers completing high school have improved steadily! In spite of poor service delivery, access to piped water in the home and electricity have improved. This in spite of the increase in total population. Part of the reason is the informal economy, part is the spirit of ubuntu! If we can tame the corruption monster, we can turn this country around into a prosperous proud nation. That also requires both white and black people to let go of racial stereotypes, and for government to make use of the huge creativity and potential goodwill of all South Africans.

    • Dragon Slayer says:

      Valid points … but, is it too woke to discus is the relevance and quality of this improved high school completion, its relevance for employability, capability to cope with tertiary education, or general cognitive impairment?

    • D'Esprit Dan says:

      I agree that we should look to the positives and build on them, but the positives are really slim pickings when you poke them a bit: only 37% (I think, from memory) of us has a matric, the quality of which is disastrous in an increasingly technological society and world. Less than half of 15-19 year old’s are enrolled in high school! Access to water and electricity, as has been pointed out by others, is theoretical, for up to 11 hours a day for electricity under Stage 6, and some communities go for days or weeks without water. The census results point to possible potential in South Africa, but delivery by this useless, corrupt government will always be theoretical, not actual.

    • Ben Harper says:


  • dbanks976 says:

    These figures are bogus. No one from SATSA came to our home to take any form of census. How many other households did they pass and got paid for, maybe even “completing” forms inaccurately just to get the job done. Can’t prove anything – just putting it out there.

  • Ellis Mortimer says:

    I was not contacted for the census by any of the issues mentioned, nor were any of my family or friends. If fact, no one I know have participated in the census. My household has certainly changed since 2011. It would be interesting to how many of your readers have contributed

  • George 007 says:

    “Statistics South Africa officials said the white people population has been declining since 1996, but ***the reason for this is not known.*** It could be due to a range of factors, including emigration trends.


    • Ted Bartlett says:

      They said the % of white population was decreasing. It went from 11% to 7.3%, but the population changed from 40.6 million to 62 million. The actual number of whites changed from 4.466 million to 4.526 million (just calculate the percentages) i.e. there is actually an increase in the white population!

      There are lies, damned lies and statistics……

  • What % of population pay personal/ corporate tax with +-60% youth and a +-38% (+-47% if you include those who have given up looking for work) unemployment. How many businesses that employed SAns have closed as a result of shrinking white population, mismatched Govt legislation in agri sectors, SOEs contributions to fiscus, visa exclusions for necessary skills, ownership regulations and the implementation of protectionism BEE legislation? Govt tax collection has shrunk, it’s debt repayments are astronomical, ANC national and local govt are lining their pockets with what IS available, their BEE funding institutions CANNOT fund BEE enterprises (90% BEE ownership) anymore yet they continue down a path to ruin…. Watch – increase in VAT is coming! And buckle up – the revolution is back!

    • Johan Buys says:

      The tax thing is interesting.

      Our tax composition is about 36% personal and 14% corporate with VAT 24% and other taxes and levies 16%. 1% is what is defined as “social security contributions”. this is basically stuff that everybody pays, regardless of level of income, typically toward social security net like grants and such for poor and unemployed.

      For Africa those numbers are 18 + 19 and then 28+27 with 3% social security.

      For OECD the numbers paint completely different picture. 23+10 and 20+20 leaving 26% from social security contributions.

      So VAT roughly in line at 25% and our classical income taxes high at 50% versus mid 30% elsewhere.

      How should our social security work? Every worker should pay, even if they are below tax threshold, something toward their fellow countrymen. It would require reworking the tax tables a bit, but it might change attitudes to grants when every payslip of thumbsuck 20 million people shows R250 per month paid toward that pool for grants. It is easy to support and vote for increased grants and welfare and a basic income grant when the money comes from somebody else’s pocket. Maybe, if the BIG means your R250 per month social security contribution must increase to R600pm, people wil be less cavalier

  • Dermot Quinn says:

    With a population growth of such magnitude and a GDP growth of less in ZAR teams, by adjusting for the no. of people and inflation citizens are individually significantly worse off.
    The white population is following Western trends where the no of births per couple is at or below 2. Only Africa has a growing rate of population expansion. (Even China and India are slowing and peaking.)

    The economic policies that the ANC is doubling down on become ever more ludicrous as the % of whites falls even further. The real threat is not growing the economy and creating jobs and, of course, helping with a grant at the same time. The grants must be paid for, the economy must supply.

  • Craig A says:

    One million babies using ONE nappy a day for 2 years is a total of 730,000,000 nappies being disposed of on rubbish dumps giving off poisonous methane! And we blame plastic straws for global warming?

    One million babies that need to educated by an already strained system.
    One million extra mouths to feed in a time where food is becoming scarce (anyone have some eggs?) and very expensive.
    One million youths looking for a job in 18 years when the economy is shrinking and AI will take make a lot of jobs redundant.

    When is the government going to start talking about population reduction? That is a solution.

    • Gordon Bentley says:

      Hi Craig, Yes I agree, curbing/restricting population growth is the only long-term solution. Yours, apparently is only one voice in many millions of people to support this obvious and most practical solution.

      We are already in a disastrous situation. What will the next census tell us? That we have another Two million mouths to feed, house and educate when we are not coping with the present population?
      Already farming has to give way to squatter camps and informal hosing. Something has to be done soonest.

      It is not just a case of attempting to provide increased service delivery, etc., when there is no way S A can provide all requirements and demands of the present numbers of people. The Governments of people in Africa must remove their blindfolds and find a way to tell people to stop breeding indiscriminately, before it is too late and before all the earths resources are used up and there is mass starvation on the planet. This is a scenario too ghastly to contemplate.

      For Example there must be a humane way to limit the numbers of children, by placing a restriction on social grants, etc on every child over two or three children per family. It is suggested that we start immediately to implement this before the next census brings a further national shock.

      • Craig A says:

        In the greater Karoo area the average age of a new mother is 14 years and 11 months. AVERAGE! The age of the fathers range from 15 to 50! In most countries this would be rape or statutory rape. One of the reasons for having a baby is the social grants! And if the baby is disabled (including foetal alcohol syndrome) then the grant is about R 2,000. So the kids party and get drunk while pregnant so that they can get paid more. You can’t even make this stuff up it is so unbelievable. And terribly sad. The fuse has been lit and there is no way to stop the time bomb!

      • Mario de Abreu says:

        Gordon, I couldn’t agree more. We have long passed the stage where having babies should be a privilege and not a right. Having babies should be dependent on your tax contributions. In what way is having a baby going to improve the lives of two unemployed people already with 5 or 6 other kids? It’s easy to continue to breed irresponsibly when someone else is picking up the tab, that is, the SA taxpayer. The destruction to the environment by this wanton breeding is astronomical, not to mention the opportunity cost of supporting an army of unwed/single mothers.

  • mike muller says:

    Glad that census 2022 is finally out. Whatever its defects, it provides a (more recent) base for South Africans to confront our challenges. But we need to be careful interpreting its results.

    So, for instance, on water supply to households, DM says that: “almost half have experienced water interruptions for two or more consecutive days”.

    That is simply wrong.

    The question asked in the census was if households had “experienced ANY interruptions in their piped water supply in the last 12 months”. And of course, even in well-functioning neighbourhoods, there will be interruptions due to repairs and upgrades as well as wider system failures. Just as in electricity, long before load-shedding there were always maintenance related cuts, even in the best managed systems.

    So it is not surprising that StatsSA finds Western Cape and Gauteng interruptions as high as 28% & 41%. StatsSA simply asked the wrong question!

    We will have to wait until the next HOUSEHOLD survey to see whether we have continued with the dismal 2021 situation. The 2021 survey reported that households in rural provinces averaged 50% experiencing supply failure for more than two days while the metros were at just 14% (and Gauteng & Western Cape were at 11 & 5% respectively.)

  • virginia crawford says:

    The massive increase in population needs further explanation. I suspect our porous borders and Africa decanting into S.A. is part of the problem, as the tax base shrinks – and fewer pay for services. We are sitting on a bomb.

  • Terry Hodson says:

    Certainly no one in my area was counted. My family actually hasn’t been counted for the last 3 censuses. I’m sure the population is actually higher.

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