Employment opportunities are a driving force in human migration patterns within South Africa. Internal migration trends are influenced by several factors, including quality of life, increased security, and efficient service delivery; nonetheless, the search for a job is a key driving driver.
Property data analysts at Lightstone found that between 2011 and 2022, the populations of Gauteng (31% growth), the Western Cape (24% growth), and North West province (20% growth) all increased significantly. Hayley Ivins-Downes, Head of Digital at Lightstone Property, confirms that work opportunities are a major element in this population growth.
Transfer to the Gauteng and the Western Cape Areas
According to Ivins-Downes, “Gauteng and Western Cape have always been the primary focus of job seekers.” “Gauteng, with its economic and political significance, and the Western Cape, with its efficient governance and growing reputation as an ideal location for remote work, have both experienced considerable demographic growth.”
Because of these tendencies, people across the country are drawn to certain areas because they believe there are more job opportunities there.
Comparison of Provincial Population Growth Rates
However, the stories from other provinces are very different. Population growth in the Eastern Cape, Free State, Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal, and Northern Cape have all been below average because of dismal economic prospects. Gauteng, the Western Cape, and North West are more prosperous than other provinces, hence people from those areas are leaving. In contrast, Mpumalanga’s population growth over the past decade and a half (17% according to Lightstone data) mirrors that of the country as a whole.
Productivity in the Workplace by Age
The population under 18 makes up the largest age group in every single province. Ivins-Downes, however, draws our focus to the age distribution within the expanding provinces. The 30- to 40-year-old demographic now outnumbers the 18- to 30-year-old demographic in Gauteng, which may indicate a transition towards a more economically active population.
If you count only persons under the age of 30, Limpopo’s youth population increases from 39% to 61%. In contrast, only 28% of the population of Gauteng falls into this category. Compared to slightly around 30% in Limpopo, 44.5% of the population in Gauteng is in the most economically productive age bracket of 30-60, according to Ivins-Downes.
These figures suggest that provinces with stronger economies have a higher proportion of residents in their prime working years, whereas those with poorer economies have a larger proportion of children and the elderly.
Rising Rents Present a Problem
The rental housing market adjusts as more people move in search of employment. According to the Payprop Rental Index for Q1 2023, the Northern Cape is challenging the Western Cape as South Africa’s most costly province for renters due to its high rental growth.
This change is explained by Johette Smuts, PayProp’s Head of Data and Analytics: “Over the first three months of this year, the provinces reached an average rent of R9 248, up from R8 962 in the last quarter of 2022.” The annual rent increase was 10.2 percent, which is quite high.
The Western Cape, however, continues to have the highest average rent in the country at R9 872, up from R9 737 in the previous quarter. However, Smuts foresees certain shifts: “If the Northern Cape keeps expanding at the rate it has for the past four quarters, it could soon overtake the Western Cape as the fastest-growing region in the country. Those on lower incomes trying to relocate for employment prospects are expected to face new obstacles as a result of the significant rise in rental expenses.
Perspectives from Employees and Employers
Thabo Molefe, a recent transplant to Gauteng and job seeker, sheds light on the situation on the ground in this insightful conversation. Better employment prospects were the primary motivation for my relocation to Gauteng. In terms of professional development opportunities, I think this province is better,” he says.
However, there is also evidence from business owners that indicates an uptick in applications from people living outside of the province. Human resources director Marianne Van Der Merwe at a technology company in Western Cape notes, “We have noticed an increase in applications from candidates outside of the province.” Many people say they are prepared to move for improved employment opportunities.
Employment opportunities and provincial population growth in South Africa are linked. It highlights the critical importance of equitable economic growth across the country to avoid unfairly burdening some regions and to promote growth on a national scale.
About The Author:
Lunga Dlamini is a journalist specializing in African start-ups and entrepreneurship. Lunga’s fascination with innovative business models and emerging market trends guides his writing. He has an MBA and has been with Africa Nova since its inception.