South Africa’s Human Development Index on the rise: SAIRR


After declining for over a decade, South Africa’s Human Development Index (HDI) has started to rise again, the South African Institute of Race Relations says. In 1980, South Africa’s HDI was 0.658. It rose steadily to 0.698 in 1990. However, by 2005, it had decreased to 0.678, which was worse than its level in 1985.

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) data showed that in 2007, South Africa’s HDI rose again to 0.683. The annual 2009/10 South Africa Survey, published by the Institute in Johannesburg this week shows that the upward trend continued into 2010. The HDI is an index that combines measurements of life expectancy, literacy, educational attainment, and gross domestic product (GDP) per capita for countries worldwide. It is used as a standard means of measuring development, as well as to determine whether a country is developed, developing, or underdeveloped.

Thuthukani Ndebele, a researcher at the Institute, said “The reason for South Africa’s HDI decline between 1990 and 2005 was a dramatic decline in life expectancy, as a result of the HIV/AIDS pandemic.” Data from Statistics South Africa shows that South Africa’s life expectancy for men increased between 2005 and 2007 from 50.3 years to 51.4 years. For women the increase was from 52.6 years in 2005 to 53.4 years in 2007. “This increase in life expectancy between 2005 and 2007 accounts for the increase in South Africa’s HDI,” Ndebele said.
“By 2010, life expectancy for men was 53.3 years, and for women it was 55.2 years. This shows the increasingly positive effect of government’s roll-out of anti-retroviral treatment for people living with HIV/AIDS. This upward trend looks set to continue, which means that South Africa should expect further rises in its HDI, barring any negative changes in educational attainment or GDP per capita. This reflects increasing levels of human development in the country.”

Meanwhile, estimates show that from 2030 onwards, South Africa will have a decreasing
population. Between 2010 and 2030, South Africa’s population will grow, although at a decreasing rate each year. By 2030 South Africa’s population will be 53.81 million. The population will then decrease to 53.74 million by 2035, and to 53.28 million by 2040, according to data from the Institute of Futures Research at the University of Stellenbosch cited in the Survey. One of the main reasons for this is the long term impact of HIV/AIDS. In South Africa, the number of deaths in a year is making up an increasingly higher proportion of the number of births. In 1985, deaths were 25% of births. This was expected by the Actuarial Society of South Africa to increase to 87% of births by 2021.

Ndebele said, “If this trend continues, there will soon be more deaths than births in South Africa. It is evident that the HIV/AIDS pandemic has resulted in an increasing number of deaths. These deaths are mostly among people in the child-bearing age group, which will result in decreasing numbers of births.” However, a lower fertility rate will also contribute to population shrinkage. Between 2001 and 2010, South Africa’s fertility rate decreased from 2.86 to 2.38 births per woman.

By 2040, the fertility rate will have dropped to 1.98 births per woman. This is lower than the
replacement rate of 2.1 births per woman, which is needed for the population to reproduce
itself. “Lower fertility rates are related to an increase in access to education and
contraceptives, which results in women having fewer children.
“A combination of increasing deaths as a result of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, as well as lower
fertility rates will result in population shrinkage after 2030. This can be positive as there will
be less strain on resources in South Africa. However, it will also be negative, as there will
be fewer people to contribute to the economy and its internal consumer markets.’

The state BuaNews agency separately notes the South African economy is projected to grow by 3.4% in 2011, down by 0.1% from previous projections, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) says. In its latest World Economic Outlook (WEO) report update, the IMF said the country’s economy is projected to grow by 3.8% in 2012, also down by 0.1% from previous projections.

The IMF’s projection for growth in 2011 is in line with the Reserve Bank which last week adjusted its figures for 2011 for growth to reach 3.4%. The central bank left its projection for 2012 unchanged at 3.6%. According to the report growth in emerging and developing economies remained robust in the third quarter buoyed by well-entrenched private demand, still accommodative policy stances, and resurgent capital inflows. According to the WEO countries in sub-Saharan Africa have recovered quickly from the global economic meltdown with the region projected to grow 5.5% in 2011. “But the pace of the recovery has varied within the region. Output growth in most oil exporters and low-income countries (LICs) is now close to pre-crisis highs.

The recovery in South Africa and its neighbours, however, has been more subdued, reflecting the more severe impact of the collapse in world trade and elevated unemployment levels that are proving difficult to reduce,” it said. Growth in emerging and developing economies is expected to remain buoyant at 6.5 percent a modest slowdown from the 7 percent growth registered last year. Asia however continues to grow rapidly, it said.