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has Johannesburg stopped rising, or are the numbers unsuitable?

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South Africa’s census is a crucial supply of data for coverage making, planning and analysis, and so the Census 2022 findings launched final week had been eagerly awaited. It provides many insights on every part from marriage charges to language distribution. However as city students and planning practitioners with many years of curiosity and expertise in observing how post-apartheid settlements are being reshaped, our eyes have fallen significantly on what Census 2022 appears to be saying about modifications in South Africa’s main cities and cities.

The first batch of outcomes produced a mixture of anticipated in addition to some shocking findings. This was significantly true for Gauteng province, the nation’s financial engine, and its fundamental metropolis, Johannesburg.

If its numbers are to be believed, Census 2022 and preliminary evaluation reveals astonishingly low inhabitants development figures for Gauteng, and particularly for Johannesburg.

With an annual inhabitants development charge of two.0%, Gauteng is barely rising sooner than the nationwide common. It’s falling behind the Western Cape at 2.4% and Mpumalanga at 2.3%. The best shock was the determine for Johannesburg: solely 0.8%. Which means town lags behind the nation’s different main cities and is now not a quickly rising metropolis.

This result’s completely at odds with the favored notion of Johannesburg as a metropolis that’s overwhelmed by inhabitants development, battling to maintain tempo with demand for housing, providers and infrastructure.

There may be, nonetheless, a caveat: the census information could also be questionable.

We are able to’t conclude definitively right now whether or not the 0.8% displays a problem with information or represents a startling new actuality. There’s a chance that it may replicate a deep disaster in South Africa’s premier metropolis – the result of a decade or so of weak financial development and elevated social insecurity. Stagnating numbers counsel a lack of enchantment, bringing decreased prospects for enterprise and cultural innovation.

On this piece we talk about the twin considerations now we have: the implications if certainly the expansion of Johannesburg has slowed down considerably, and the veracity of the info.

Is Johannesburg stagnating?

The censuses held in 2001 and 2011 confirmed a broadly held view amongst city students and planners that post-apartheid South Africa was urbanising quickly. And that this development was concentrating within the giant metropolitan areas, particularly in Gauteng province.

This made sense, as Gauteng makes up a full third of the nationwide financial system. Because the world’s largest producer of gold for over a century, Johannesburg has attracted financial alternative seekers all through its historical past. When the boundaries to motion beneath apartheid got here down within the Nineties the tempo of rural to city migration accelerated. Johannesburg’s quickly altering constructed surroundings mirrored this, for instance within the big improve in casual dwellings.

However the newest census numbers counsel some dramatic modifications could possibly be underway.

If the census figures are right, Cape City ( with 4,772,846 folks) stood simply behind Johannesburg’s whole of 4,803,262 in early 2022. However it’s reportedly rising at double Johannesburg’s charge, which suggests that it’s going to have already got overtaken Johannesburg as South Africa’s largest metropolis.

The census means that the white inhabitants of Johannesburg decreased by some 211,000 between 2011 and 2022, the Indian inhabitants by 49,000 and the colored inhabitants by 18,000. These racial definitions had been launched beneath apartheid, and are nonetheless in use in the present day to measure post-apartheid inhabitants dynamics and improvement progress. These declines, and the related will increase within the Western Cape province specifically, are confirmed by the state of the property market at each ends.

Whereas this absolute decline is compensated for by the 665,000 rise within the variety of black Africans, the shock is that this represents a rise of only one.7% each year, no increased than the background development charge for the nation as a complete. This implies that even black Africans could also be leaving Johannesburg.

This may occasionally conceivably take many kinds, like aged folks retiring early to rural areas, youngsters being despatched “residence” to be raised by grandparents, and work seekers searching for financial alternatives elsewhere. It could possibly be center class “semigration” the place residents transfer to most well-liked components of the nation as an alternative of emigrating.

Spatial tax information signifies that Johannesburg nonetheless provides extra jobs than, say, Cape City. Nevertheless its financial efficiency has been poor in recent times, affecting job development. This may occasionally have had results throughout the labour market, together with whether or not lower-income households are prepared to ascertain themselves within the metropolis and whether or not the black center class stays.

Whereas we’re but to do a scientific evaluation, we do word some sizzling spots of quick development in small cities and rural components of extra rural provinces. For instance Bushbuckridge, an in depth, traditionally rural settlement within the north of the nation bordering the Kruger Nationwide Park, has historically been understood as a migrant-sending space, however now has a development charge of properly over 3% each year.

The veracity of the info

Varied opinion items within the media have raised eyebrows on the exceptionally excessive undercount of some 31%, which means that almost a 3rd of residents have been subsequently proven to not have been counted on census day. This determine is worryingly double that for the final census. The undercount in lots of international locations, each developed and creating, is usually lower than 5% so the outcomes are arguably far more reliable.

There are contextual causes for this, akin to nagging COVID transmission fears and the emotions of insecurity from bouts of public violence. These exterior elements could have constrained the environment friendly administration of the census, resulting in:

  • uncounted overseas nationals

  • restricted entry of census officers to gated estates and suburban properties

  • the impossibility of counting the residents of inner-city buildings.

Exterior elements may additionally have been compounded by inner administrative challenges. There are a lot of anecdotes of individuals attempting, however failing, to submit their census returns by way of StatsSA’s new on-line facility.

In concept these issues ought to have been resolved by way of put up enumeration sampling and adjustment. Nonetheless, questions could legitimately be requested of census officers, and now we have finished so. We’re sceptical, and await additional readability.

Earlier census figures have been restated following the primary official launch. It’s conceivable that we may even see revisions that right statistical anomalies.

What subsequent

It’s nonetheless early days for evaluation as we nonetheless await the intra-municipal information from Census 2022. Nonetheless, now we have recognized intriguing, and generally worrying, indications of shifting spatial patterns.

At this level, assuming for the second that the numbers are accurately indicative of instructions even when not exact, we will at the least hypothesise that the socio-spatial traits revealed in Census 2022 are the result of a decade or so of weak financial development and elevated social insecurity in South Africa’s financial hub.

With the job market in giant cities and a few mining districts unstable or depressed, funding in “rural settlements” could also be rising, with members of stretched households returning to those areas after job loss seeking household help and cultural consolation. Earlier patterns of urbanisation and agglomeration will not be inexorable.

We are able to’t conclude definitively right now whether or not the 0.8% inhabitants development charge for Johannesburg displays a problem with information or represents a startling actuality. And whereas decreased development could appear to some as a constructive pattern, it may replicate a deep disaster in South Africa’s premier metropolis. Whereas development brings strain, it additionally provides alternative.


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