Cape Town Profile

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1. Demographic trends

1.1 Population

The South African nation comes from diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds and has 11 official languages. This diverse population is characterised by eight distinct factors, namely race (population group), culture, ethnicity, language, religion, class, education and politics.

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The South African population in 2015 was estimated at 54 956 900 people, of whom approximately 51% (some 28, 07 million) were female. The Western Cape population in 2015 was estimated at 6 200 100, which constituted 11, 3% of the country’s total population, having declined slightly since 2014 when it constituted 11, 4% of the total South African population. The female population in the province is slightly higher, comprising 50, 73% of the total population. The Western Cape’s population is predominantly urban, mainly as Cape Town’s population makes up a significant portion of the provincial population.

1.2 Households

The total number of households in Cape Town grew from 653 085 in 1996 to 1 068 572 in 2011, which represents an increase of 63, 6%. There seems to be a trend towards smaller household units across all population groups. In 1996, the average household in Cape Town had three, 92 members, which dropped to three, 50 in 2011. Fertility, mean age at marriage, and divorce are the three main demographic determinants influencing household size. Households become less extended, more nuclear and smaller as societies industrialize and urbanize. The Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) studied the factors responsible for the reduction in household sizes throughout South Africa. Their analysis revealed that a mixture of interrelated legal, economic and social processes have contributed towards this trend since 1994. These involve greater legal protection and social acceptance of youth and women claiming rights to housing, the emergence of a powerful youth culture driving modern aspirations, the increasing effects of high unemployment, and women’s earning power eroding patriarchal values and changing the nature of the institution of marriage.

Cape Town’s average household size is below that of developing countries (five members) and is moving closer to that of many developed countries (two to three members). This is already the case in certain population groups, particularly the white and black African groups (with the former averaging at around 2, 5 and the latter at 3, 25 in 2011).

Even though the trend of smaller household sizes may have be seen as positive, it does pose certain challenges to Cape Town, as to other South African metros and developing-country cities. These include the increased demand for housing supply to accommodate the trend, with the consequent increase in housing prices; increased competition for scarce urban land for new housing developments, and the breakdown of the extended family, which is often considered as powerful social support network.

The demographic trend for South Africa and the Western Cape indicates an ageing population across all population groups.

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