NDP: Population profile hits sweet spot

2012-08-15 16:04

Cape Town - South Africa's population has hit a "sweet spot", with a highly favourable age distribution profile, according to the revised National Development Plan (NDP) tabled at Parliament on Wednesday.

"There is a large youth and working-age population and proportionally fewer very old and very young," it says.

While this holds great opportunity for the country, it also poses a serious threat if not managed properly.

"The challenge is to convert this into a demographic dividend. This will only be possible if the number of working-age individuals can be employed in productive activities, with a consequent rise in the level of average income per capita.

"If South Africa fails to do this, its large youth cohort could pose a serious threat to social, political and economic stability," the NDP warns.


Young black people account for two-thirds of South Africa's unemployed below the age of 35.

"Unemployment rates are highest in the 15- to 24-year-old group (46.6% in 2008), and second highest among 25 to 34-year-olds (26.2%). For black youth, the unemployment rate is 65%.

"If youths fail to get a job by 24, they are unlikely to ever get formal employment. Unresolved, this trend poses the single greatest risk to social stability. Young people are more likely to rebel if left with no alternative, but unemployment and poverty."

The document notes that, generally, murders are committed by males between the ages of 16 and 30.

"In South Africa, this could translate into social disorder, widespread political unrest and increased crime.

"The degree to which the demographic dividend can be banked, and the risks avoided, depends on policy choices and how effectively they are implemented."

Youth lens

The plan calls for the government to apply a "youth lens" to policies to expand opportunities, enhance capabilities and provide second chances.

It says this should include better food security and health care; better education, to meet the demands for higher skill levels; easier labour market entry; and labour mobility.

Although better health care and education were necessary to take advantage of a youthful population, they were not sufficient.

"Expanding opportunities for higher education without a concomitant increase in employment opportunities can be hazardous.

High unemployment among educated youth can potentially lead to political upheaval and violence.

"Economic opportunities and jobs are therefore crucial. The demographic dividend can be realised only if gainful employment is created for the growing proportion of people of working age."


On population, the NDP says there are significant differences in the profiles of SA's population groups across the three main demographic drivers: fertility, mortality and migration.

"Due to historical inequalities, black South Africans generally live shorter lives and have a higher fertility rate than white South Africans, although the fertility rate among the black population is dropping sharply, particularly in urban areas.

"Migration, both within the country and across its borders, will feature in the country's profile over the next 18 years. The movement of people from rural areas to towns and cities will increase, while migration, predominantly from other African countries, is likely to continue."

It states that if the economy continues to expand at current rates, and fertility rates continue to decline, the population will grow from 50.6 million to 58.5 million by 2030.

Sweet spot

"South Africa has arrived at the 'sweet spot' of demographic transition. The population has a proportionately high number of working-age people and a proportionately low number of young and old.

"This means that the dependency ratio - the percentage of those over 64 and under 15, relative to the working-age population - is at a level where there are enough people of working age to support the non-working population."

The NDP says a caveat in South Africa's case is that unemployment and HIV/Aids have produced many more dependants than would normally be the case.

"Although statistically South Africa is in a position to cash in on a demographic dividend, the challenges of joblessness and HIV/Aids are a burden on those who are working," it states.

  • danny.archer.589 - 2012-08-15 16:18

    "with a highly favourable age distribution profile" Pity that that age distribution profile is heavily populated by OBE matriculants or OBE drop outs.

  • gerhard.kress.3 - 2012-08-15 16:26

    I do not see how the minister can say that. The supposed demographic advantages come from HIV/AIDS death rate and a 25% (more likely 40%) unemployment rate. Social grants are proof of that. Yes the minister states all the facts but why tell me? He is being paid to sort out this mess. No more talking to the wind. We want concrete results. As an ordinary citizen I do not have the power to change that, you do.

  • grump.white.3 - 2012-08-15 16:27

    "While this holds great opportunity for the country, it also poses a serious threat if not managed properly." And how, pray tell us, will the Government "manage" population growth? By denying the greater population appropriate health care as it has done in the past by withholding necessary medicines for AIDS? What other "strategies do they intend to implement, each of which will probably reduce the freedom of choice that individuals currently enjoy?

  • freddie.miff - 2012-08-15 16:35

    There is a disproportionately low number of very young and very old people? This is not good. The young have died due to Aids and the old due to SA's low life expectancy. What fool can claim this is good?

  • mark.haupt.31 - 2012-08-15 16:35

    I don't know about a "sweet spot", more the edge of a precipice unless the government create some kind of environment for all these kids to obtain employment in. Dear Government, which part of 46% unemployment amongst the vulnerable - and potentially militant and violent - 18-24 years age group don't you understand? Have any of you been mugged lately by a senior citizen?

  • mauritz.kloppers.7 - 2012-08-15 16:39

    Quoting some statistics from Mr Songezo Zibi (Business Day 15 Aug 2012): 1,460,000 kids enter the school system in one year. 964,000 leave school without a matric certificate (Unemployable) 102,600 get matric with maths (7% of the original group) and potentially enter university 15,401 exit with a degree. (1% of the original group). What happens to the 1,444,599 youth who did not /could not get a university degree? Sweet spot becomes sour spot.

  • BigChiefPlumbPudding - 2012-08-15 16:40

    I fail in real life to see, feel or taste any sweet spot anywhere. What a lot of academic yada yada.

  • pieter.joubert.9 - 2012-08-15 16:46

    The minister is pointing out a fact- the population profile is beginning to resemble more of a developed/developing profile, which is a good thing. (To all the stupid people out there, more of a hourglass profile, less than a pyramid). This means people are having fewer babies and thinking about the future of their kids. I find it interesting that most of the comments from white people are always negative. You must really be sad individuals to always moan and groan about anything and everything.

      BigChiefPlumbPudding - 2012-08-15 17:07

      No pieter - please, head out the sand now. We are reflecting on the sad state of our country and it's leaders. I am certainly not a sad individual on the whole, but very sad about where this country is going, particularly because it is so unnecessary. Then there is the small matter of accuracy regarding these statistics.....

  • carl.lotter.3 - 2012-08-15 21:29

    National Planning Commission of South Africa: they actually mention SMME South African Small and Medium Enterprises Federation welcome the National Development Plan and that it pays due recognition to SMME. Just as we needed the NPC to tell us this (away from the jaded voiced of government departments) So SMME needs the work of SASMEF - One voice for SMME; One agenda for SMME; One way for SMME Partnership. It is time for action. A new plan A new Map needs new guides and new tools. As scripture says: You cannot put new wine into old wine jars; the old wine jars will crack and the new wine will be wasted. NPC has provided the instruction handbook: South African Small and medium enterprises will create a new wine ONE voice for SMME. But the turf needs to be prepared: Government administration has a virus not conducive to the new Wine of ONE voice for SMME; Government administration does not have the nutrients need to grow the SMME vine; Government administration needs a partner. That partner can be South Africa small and Medium Enterprises Federation but do government departments see the hand extended to them or they too weak to even see help at the front from SMME themselves.

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