Homenewsabout usContact UsWebsite

Census 2011: A take on youth

The Census 2011 results were made available on Tuesday, 30 October 2012, and, as predicted, have already enjoyed their fair share of controversy.
Census 2011: A take on youth
Although - and suspiciously so, some say - a great deal of national upliftment appears in certain numbers, including those around sanitation, and education, critics still believe that the South African government is still not doing enough in certain areas to ensure the optimum development of its populace. We focus, here, on what it all means for young South Africans.

The total population of South Africa as counted in Census 2011 has increased by 11.2 million since Census 1996. The province with the largest population is Gauteng, which has overtaken KwaZulu-Natal as the province with the largest population since the last census.

Census 2011: A take on youth
click to enlarge

Female empowerment?

The population split remains quite equally split. There were 25.2 million (48.7%) males counted in Census 2011, compared to 26.6 million (52.3%) females. This phenomenon further entrenches the need for female empowerment in the South African context: an important mandate for government to focus on moving into 2013 and beyond.

According to the 2011 Businesswomen Association's (BWA) South African Women in Leadership Census, women were in the minority when it came to leadership positions.

The women in leadership census found that women hold only 4.4% of chief executive officer/managing director positions, 5.3% of chairperson positions and 15.8% of all directorships in South Africa. The report indicated that in the country's public service, women hold 35% of all senior managerial positions.

"We need to be giving girls, and young women, more to look up to - they can be doctors, lawyers, managers, leaders, and we need role models to chart that path. Paying lip service to our South Africa's is just not enough," says Mokebe Thulo, youth expert at HDI Youth Mareketeers.


South Africa remains a largely youthful country, with the average age of the population moving from 22 in the 1996 Census to 25 in Census 2011. Of a total population of 51 770 560, 25 478 8108 which makes up 49.21 of the total population are under 24 years old. KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng have the largest number of youths, with a youth poulation of 5 501 442 and 5 208 142 respectively. Interestingly, almost one in three South African is under 14 years old.

The younger the population of a country, the more urgent the need to correct the state of education of that country.

Although the government has allocated R200 billion to spend on education in 2012; and almost R6 billion is pledged by the private sector annually, 87% of South African schools are considered "dysfunctional" according to the National Planning Commission.

With 440 000 educators having to serve 12.6 million learners currently in the system, it's clear that it's time for solutions.

It's a national problem and everybody needs to get involved in solving it.

The business world has a strong responsibility in the area of education. Not only to be seen as to exist in CSI scope, but as head of Channel Marketing and CSI of Capitec Bank Sibusiso Kumalo put it earlier this year, "South Africa's progress depends heavily on our ability to create jobs and opportunities for young people", adding that it's almost impossible at this stage to find people to give jobs to even when there are jobs to be had.

Commentators have expressed concerns about progress in education: although there has been a steady relative increase in the number of children in school, the quality of the education that these learners are receiving has been placed under some tough scrutiny.

Census 2011: A take on youth
click to enlarge

One of the more positive outcomes of Census 2011: amongst 5-24 year olds, the majority totalling just under 14 million were attending educational institutions and more than 95% of South African children aged 5-14 are attending school.

Youth specialists HDI Youth Marketeers' MD says, "It's great to see that we are making headway in getting our youth schooled, but our experience, being in schools and "youth'dom" daily, is that massive improvements are needed in that schooling though."

Researcher Amy Van Zuydam from HDI Youth Marketeers says, "According to the Sunday Times Generation Next 2012 youth lifestyle and consumer behaviour study, education would top young people's list of issues they would address if they were president. It's more important to youth than crime and unemployment. With this in mind, it's encouraging to see that according to the latest census results more youth have access to education in 2012.

The flip side of the coin according to critics is that although the school attendance numbers are looking good, the standard of education in South Africa remains a low one. Although thousands of matriculants make it out of school each year (just under 350 000 in 2011), a very small percentage of these are able to move either into higher education, or skilled labour.

Van Zuydam adds that drops in the reporting of Primary education as the highest level of education reached, and steady increases in the reporting of Grade 12 (28.2% in 2011 compared to 16.3% in 1996) and higher (12.3% in Census 2011 compared to 7.1% in 1996) education since Census 1996, are

Simply put, there is very little benefit to "falsely" educating the South African child. The result is what some might call worse. A generation of children who think that after having spent years in the school system, they may have a fighting chance in future, only to find that they are in fact not "educated" cannot lead to any positive result.

The Big City

As reported in the media, President Zuma said South Africa had already outlined a vision for its future - the National Development Plan. By 2030 every community should have access to water and sanitation, food on each table, members that fall asleep without fear, "listen to the rain on the roof (and) ... gather together in front of heat".

The development and income gap between urban and rural South Africans is set to widen if policymakers follow the findings of Census 2011.

It's also to be noted that the number of South Africans living in urban areas makes it easier for marketers to reach their customers and for government to reach their social development targets. The youth market is hotly pursued by a number of brands in so many industries, but so many of them are unsure of how to connect with this demographic.

Of course, a foot in the right direction would be to employ the experts before embarking on marketing campaigns geared towards the youth. The advent of urbanisation makes it that much easier to connect with this often challenging market.

HDI Jason Levin weighs in with "So it remains an amazing, crazy ol' country - well, young - country. We have lots to sort out, and the Census, as flawed as it may be, has picked out many of those areas. Youth cannot be neglected, they are going to have to do part of the fixing and they are going to be the beneficiaries of the repair - let's get to it."

HDI Youth Marketeers is a specialist youth insight and activation agency. They coordinate school, educational and other campaigns and platforms that connect with four million young South Africans a year.

12 Dec 2012 12:17