The world is changing fast and to keep up you need local knowledge with global context.
Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored. A line EFF leader Julius Malema should take to heart after he encouraged his audience to have ‘more black babies’ at the party’s election manifesto launch. It’s a comment that will not only incite ‘Wit Gevaar’ electioneering but could also put added pressure onto an already ailing economy. An excellent analysis by Reuters earlier unpacked the current situation in Nigeria, which shows how a 3 percent population growth compounded the country’s woes. And with almost three quarters of the population living on less than $1 a day, more babies is the last thing they need. Bring that back home and one of South Africa’s finest economists Azar Jammine takes heart to Malema’s comments. He shows why it was so ignorant in the piece below, especially as it was a platform where more important issues could have been addressed. Brilliant analysis. – Stuart Lowman
By Azar Jammine*
Malema Does Not Recognise How Relative Size Of White Population Has Declined
Commentary surrounding EFF leader Julius Malema’s call on Blacks to make more babies in order to prevent the White race group from becoming so large relative to the Black African population as to take over the reins of power in South Africa, has not elicited as much commentary and analysis in the media as it ought to have done.
The call reflects extreme ignorance on the part of one of South Africa’s leading politicians and is highly irresponsible for a number of reasons. Firstly, in terms of ignorance, it suggests that the White population in South Africa is so big as to threaten to increase in size to a level larger than that of the Black African population. This is a ridiculous insinuation.
According to the 2015 midyear population estimates (released annually by Stats SA), South Africa’s population increased from 45.45m in 2002, to 54.96m, i.e. an increase of 9.55m over 13 years. Over that same period, the Black African population increased from 35.47m in 2002, to 44.23m in 2015, i.e. an increase of 8.94m. In contrast, the White population decreased marginally in absolute terms, from 4.56m in 2002, to 4.53m in 2015.
In other words, the Black African population increased by almost twice as much as the absolute number of Whites in the country. The proportion of the population made up by Whites decreased from 10.0% in 2002, to 8.3% in 2015, relegating it to being the third largest population group, after Black Africans at 80.5% of the total in 2015 and Coloureds at 8.8%.
The starkness of the differentiation between racial population sizes is even more dramatic when the breakdown of the population is expressed in terms of the youth. Amongst persons aged between 15 and 34 years, the Black African population increased from 82.3% in 2009, to 83.3% in 2014. In contrast, the share of the population aged between 15 and 34 years that was White, declined from 6.7% in 2009, to just 6.1% in 2014. It is therefore ridiculous for the EFF to feel threatened by the growth of the White population.
On the contrary, of significant concern for the country’s future is the stagnant trend of the White population, reflecting not only a low fertility rate within this race group, but more importantly large-scale emigration of skilled White people.
This stands to deprive the country’s economy and its developing population of the skills transfer needed to uplift the skills base of the economy, which is so vital for improved sustainable growth. It is interesting to note, for example, that although the White population still is by far the most affluent of the race groups, its share of wealth has been declining significantly over the same period and with this, one assumes its economic power is also declining proportionately.
In 2007, for example, 86.2% of South Africa’s Dollar millionaires were Whites, but this proportion had declined to just 55.1% by 2015, according to a study by New World Wealth.
Irresponsible Potential Contribution To Proliferation Of HIV
Even more important than its reflection of ignorance of the demographics of this country is the irresponsible implication of Malema’s statement for the country’s health system. Great strides have been made over the past decade in reducing the relative incidence of HIV/AIDS and the diminution of deaths through HIV.
One of the important outcomes has been a marked increase in life expectancy from 53 years in 2005, to 63 years at present. Such improvement as resulted from the free rollout of antiretroviral drugs, but also from initiatives to encourage people to use condoms when having sex. Whereas at its peak in 2005, in the context of the absence of free ARV treatment, 50.7% of deaths were being caused by AIDS, this figure declined to 29.2% in 2014, rising modestly to 30.5% in 2015. Infant mortality has fallen sharply in sympathy.
The number of AIDS-related deaths in 2005 had been 682,059, but had declined to 531,965 in 2015. However, this does not imply that the incidence of AIDS has actually declined. On the contrary, there have never been as many persons carrying the HIV virus as there are at present, with 6.19m, or no less than 11.3% of the total population in 2015, infected with the virus. This compares with just 4.35m carrying the virus in 2005.
For Malema now to exhort Black Africans to refrain from using condoms and to engage in sex as a means of increasing the Black African birth rate is wholly irresponsible.
The fact that a record number of persons are carrying the HIV virus is placing a huge burden on the government to care for such persons. In turn, this is compromising the government’s financial ability to care for social upliftment more generally. Malema’s call is likely to be heeded by many young South Africans, with potentially damaging effects on the rising dependency on the State to bail out such persons from poverty and illness.
Far Better Would Have Been To Exhort People To Study Harder To Become More Employable
The irresponsible nature of Malema’s latest pronouncements is likely to do himself and his party no favours in the longer term. His efforts would have been far more constructive if they had been focused on encouraging young persons to study harder in order to educate themselves in such a way as to become more employable.
Ironically, days after Malema’s call for more babies, the Stats SA “The Social Profile of Youth, 2009 to 2014”, was released. This shows up an extraordinary increase in the number of unemployed persons of young age. No fewer than 3.4m of the more than 5m unemployed persons (narrow definition) were aged between 15 and 34 years in 2014. The unemployment rate amongst those aged 15 to 34 years increased from 34.2% in 2009, to 35.9% in 2014.
Worse still, the share of unemployed persons made up by the youth (between 15 and 34 years) fell from 71.3% in 2009, to 66.6% in 2014. The decline in the share of youth in overall unemployment was even greater amongst Black Africans. This suggests that many of the formerly young persons who were unemployed in 2009 had now migrated into remaining unemployed, but at an older age, in 2014.
Conversely, the proportion of persons who are employed comprised by the youth has declined from 42.6% in 2009, to 39.8% in 2014. The number of persons between the ages of 15 and 34 years actually fell by -0.1% between 2009 and 2014. In other words, the population is growing older, but the ability of those moving from the “youth” category into the older category who find employment, is not increasing commensurately.
Most alarmingly, the proportion of young persons with tertiary qualifications, be it university graduates or with other tertiary diplomas, who were unemployed, declined from 6% to 5% (with university graduates remaining at only 1%) over that five-year period, whilst in contrast the proportion of the unemployed who had a Matric certificate to nothing more, increased from 37% to 38%.
The lion’s share of unemployed youth, viz. 57% in both 2009 and 2014, remained drawn from those who had not even managed to pass Matric. Once again, this is a classic manifestation of the manner in which the probability of remaining unemployed declines with increased education. Yet, unfortunately, there has been very little progress in basic education amongst the youth.
Dramatically, out of the 1.25m pupils who enrolled for basic education at government schools in 2004, just 31,811, or 2.5%, managed to achieve a 60% pass rate in mathematics 12 years later, in 2015. In the case of physical science passes, the ratio was even smaller, at 1.9% of the total who had begun school. It therefore remains a huge challenge to develop sophisticated industrial and services sectors, with such a paucity of potential technical skills.
This renders the need for skills transfer from the proportionately small component of the population which is educated, with Whites represented quite strongly within that segment, even more critical. Unfortunately, the notion of skills transfer can frequently be interpreted as a form of colonial exploitation.
With Ageing Population, But Inadequate Education, Prospects For Social Unrest Increase
One of the interesting findings of the latest survey released by Stats SA is that the proportion of the country’s population that is young is actually declining. Between 2009 and 2014, the proportion of the population aged 15 to 24, decreased from 19.6% to 19.1%.
This makes the failure to promote improved educational outcomes all the more serious. A rising birthrate without a commensurate improvement in educational facilities and quality is a recipe for still greater unemployment and poverty. Already one is disturbed by some of the ancillary findings of the study released by Stats SA.
Whereas one had commended the declining trend of hunger over the past decade and a half according to data released by the General Household Survey in recent years, one sees that the proportion of 15 to 34-year olds going hungry has now begun to reverse that declining trend. Exposure to hunger rose from 13.5% of the youth in 2010, to 16.2% in 2014.
Also reflecting social degradation are the increases in thefts by the youth reflected over the period. Another example of social degradation is the increase in the proportion of persons between the age of 15 and 34 to die of external causes, from 34.7% in 2008, to 43.2% in 2013. Several more details are available in the survey to support the view of social decline as a result of rising unemployment in the face of lack of progress in educational outcomes.
Were the exhortations of Malema for more Black babies to be heeded, the social problems in South Africa would stand to be multiplied.
- Azar Jammine is the chief economist of Econometrix.
Cyril Ramaphosa: The Audio Biography
Listen to the story of Cyril Ramaphosa's rise to presidential power, narrated by our very own Alec Hogg.