Statistician General briefing to Members on 2011 Census Results

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Finance Standing Committee

21 November 2012
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Meeting Summary

A number of Committees, sitting jointly, with the exception of those dealing with legislation, were briefed by the Statistician-General on the 2011 Census results. The Statistician-General briefed the Committee on the 2011 Census results. He outlined the number of people in the country, and their racial groupings, the migrations, which were particularly significant to Gauteng, the average income of households, the likelihood of salaried work in the different groupings, and the fact that this was closely linked to education Although the number of people without schooling had been reduced by half since the time of the last census, it was still found that only 3.6% of African people had attained a higher education level, compared to 36.5% of White people. A number of other detailed statistics were presented, and the presentation touched upon only part. However, in response to later questions, Minister Trevor Manuel explained that the results were very widely available, on I-Pad and mobile platforms, and that South Africa had one of the most technologically advanced methods in the world, of making the census results available. A brief demonstration was given, and it was also noted that specific questions on the census addressed to the Statistician-General would be answered in 48 hours.

Minister Trevor Manuel, Minister in the Office of the Presidency, explained that there was a difference between statistics and analysis and that the latter had to take account of a range of possibilities behind the simple numbers. He illustrated this by citing household income, saying that it could not simply be assumed that a citizen earned six times more than his neighbour, but that the statistics also took into account the number of earners in the household, whether they were permanently employed, their education levels (which impacted on their type of employment) and the likelihood of their children being educated further. It was also explained that the numbers reflected proportions, so that if the number of households suddenly increased, the proportion of households with access to services in that place could be reflected as a decrease. Some perceptions on migration were explained. It was also noted that equality was essentially a political issue and Minister Manuel made the point that it was no longer possible for everyone in the world to continue to use resources in the way that this had happened in the past as the realities dictated that standards of living must change.

Members asked about the statistics on delivery, how it was possible to record a decrease in statistics on service delivery, particularly in regard to the number of toilets, how a count had been done of people from other countries, when they did not necessarily have documents, how StatsSA dealt with the undercount and whether there had been problems in getting the information. Members were also interested to know whether the projections made in the census about inequality linked in to the National Development Plan. Members also wanted to know if was possible to differentiate between rural and urban areas, how the census took account of a breadwinner living in one area while his family lived in another, and what types of services were envisaged. Particular questions on whether there had been an analysis of the extent of, and nature of disabilities, and the contribution of women to the GDP were asked. It was noted that a separate study on women was being done, and the results would be available shortly.

Meeting report

2011 Census results
Minister in the Presidency for Planning briefing
Mr Trevor Manuel, Minister in the Presidency, introduced the presentations, and made the point that the most important aspect of running a census was that the country should be able to gauge how many people were in a particular place, so that they could get services. Census 2011 had illustrated the country’s position, and decisions needed to be taken on what it revealed. Statistics South Africa (StatsSA), who had conducted the census, was independent and when the data was collected, it had been done using a 12-page form, that collected data from 15 million people. The Statistics Council in Texas had then worked through the numbers, and wrote a letter to his office, with each member then signing acceptance of that letter. He noted that although the United States (US) accounted for an undercount, South Africa had not yet done this, as there were certain issues that made this more difficult. He said that the data that would now be presented would give Members information that would equip them to do their jobs better.

Statistician-General briefing
Mr Pali Lehohla, Statistician-General, StatsSA, said that in 1996 there were 40.5 million people and there were now 51.8 million. All the numbers correlated, a good indication that they were unlikely to be wrong. Black Africans made up 79.7%, Whites were 8.7%, Coloured were 8.9% and Indian/Asian comprised 2.6% of the population. He explained that there had been a recent, large migration to Gauteng, which was the reason it was so populous. He then outlined the migrations to different provinces around the country and said that only 56% of the residents now in Gauteng were born in Gauteng.

He tabled slides on income. White males’ income was a typical bell shape curve. White women earned less, and black men and women were shown very much to the left of the typical bell shape which meant they earned less. This was the same with coloured women. There was a large gap in the black salaries from highest to lowest. There had been real growth in income had experienced. He explained the growth for the different races. Comparing White to Black incomes, he noted that the average household income of Whites was six times higher, that Whites were twice as likely as Blacks to be in salaried work, and that only 3.6% of Africans had attained higher education level compared to 36.5% of Whites. However, he did note that the number of people in the country with no schooling had been reduced by half. He pointed out that education levels were a defining factor for salaries.

A number of other slides were included in the presentation that highlighted other areas, and gave trends.

The Statistician General noted the electricity supply and said that the Western Cape supplied electricity to over 90% of residents.

Another official from StatsSA Council said that each time a census was done, the questionnaire was getting longer. StatsSA had given consideration to changing the time of year in which the census was conducted.  The results were a fair reflection of the realities in the country. The StatsSA office was pleased to have the endorsement of the Statistics Council who had unanimously voted to release the results.

A Member asked if the disc that all MPs had received had the education statistics included, and this was confirmed.

Another ANC Member thanked StatsSA for the presentation, saying that it had been very well done. The Statistician-General and his team appeared to be able to fuse academic work with the realities on the ground. He suggested that perhaps having five year time frames between conducting the census might be too short. He was proud to be in a political party that represented the majority.

Another MP said that some statistics on delivery had increased, but he wondered if that was because the number of households had increased concomitantly, and he wondered how this affected the ratio between those who had received delivery and those who had not. He also questioned how the numbers of toilets could be shown to decrease.

Another MP enquired how StatsSA had counted those from other countries, particularly since a number of them were without official documentation.

Mr Lehohla said there was a presentation on the way in which the results could be accessed. StatsSA was creating a tool that could compute more categories, but a statistician or mathematician’s explanation could be of assistance to the more detailed calculations. He agreed that the decreases related to proportions. What was reflected as a service delivery decrease was more prominent in areas that were receiving a greater influx of people. For example, if a particular place was at one stage provided with services to 80% of the houses, but suddenly 50 new shacks were erected, the percentage of people who now had access to services would decrease. In other words, as the absolute numbers increased, the proportion would be reduced over time.

He also noted that there had been some families who resisted the enumerations, calculated at about 14 000 families, and the South African Police Service (SAPS) had to be called in to assist with implementing the law in this case. There were estimated to be 2.2 million foreign-born people in South Africa, but he cautioned that this was probably not an accurate number. He explained that there was a theory of migration that if many people from a foreign country started to enter the home country, the foreigners tended to become more conspicuous which fuelled the perception that there were many of them. He gave the example of Sunnyside. StatsSA had attempted to do a count of foreigners, and had found that whilst the population growth in South Africa of locals was just over 1%, on the Continent, the average population growth was 3%. Women gave birth, on average, to 2.7 children. However, there were several causes of infant mortality and whilst the census had released some figures, more information was needed.

Minister Manuel said that the question on research and data was fundamentally important. He explained that the aggregated data had come from StatsSA, but there then had to be research. The statistics must be free of subjectively, and the data should be capable of being used by anybody.

He gave an example, using the statement that the average household incomes for Whites was six times higher then for Blacks. This led to an assumption that a White earned six times more than a Black. That, however, was not the statistics, but an analysis. The reasons must be investigated – for instance, in White households, on average, 1.5 members of the household worked, but in a Black household this figure was reduced to 0.6. The household income could therefore not only be looked at from a salary perspective. Education also had to look back into the past because the children of people who themselves went to university were more likely to go to university.

All political parties should be able to use these statistics to support their arguments and prove their opinions, and this would enrich democracy.

The following further questions were asked:

- A question was raised about the terminology used, and the Member asked if the term “Black” included everyone who was not “White”.

- There was a query if the projections made in the census about inequality involved the National Development plan.

- StatsSA was asked if there had been any analysis, firstly, of the number of people with disabilities, and secondly, of what kind of disabilities they faced. She enquired if the census had taken into account the number of people who were disabled at institutes and schools. She also wanted to encourage StatsSA to make the information in the census fully accessible.

- An MP enquired if the Census had considered the contribution of women to the GDP, and, if this was not in the full Report, she asked if this could be made available.

- A Member wondered if there was any possibility of differentiating the population in the rural and urban areas. He wanted to know if StatsSA had analysed access to land.

- StatsSA was asked to explain whether there was a margin of error, and, if so, what it was. This Member also asked how the census would take account of the fact that people tended to move to urban areas, but their extended families stayed behind, and how service delivery would take account of that. He was curious to know what lessons had been learned, and if Parliament could help fix the problems. Finally, he enquired if StatsSA would be taking this presentation to any other institutions, including schools and NGOs.

- It was noted that StatsSA had raised the question of access to services, and wondered what types of services were anticipated.

Minister Manuel noted that not all Members had had full access to all the presentations on the Census that were available and suggested that Members must be shown how the applications for I-pad and the Mobi Platform worked, as through these it was possible to access everything. He assured Members that the information was readily available, and StatsSA could run a demonstration to explain how the application worked.

A brief presentation on that was then given.

Minister Manuel added that South Africa’s census results were more readily available, through use of technology, than in any other country in the world. Californian experts had been called in to design this.

Minister Manuel said that the Statistician-General could not answer the question on equality, because essentially that was a political question. If the world were to live at the same standards as wealthy US citizens, then four planets would be needed to accommodate that; in other words it must be accepted that the world simply could not live at that level. If the same access to vehicles was granted in China, per head of population, as in America, the world would not have resources. Not every South African could expect to live at the same standards as a wealthy person in Sandton. This was a political question. Every MP was earning in the top half of a percent, in terms of income earners. Questions about service delivery, equally, could not be determined by StatsSA, for these officials could not determine if there was water coming from the taps.

Minister Manuel gave more detail on how StatsSA dealt with the under-count.

He reiterated that StatsSA and the Presidency were happy with the way in which the data was presented, and its relative simplicity, compared to other countries. He added that if any Members had specific queries on the Census, they could just email info@statsSA , and a reply would be forwarded within 24 hours. He suggested that one or two of the technical staff should stay, after the meeting, to help Members with their queries on accessing the information.

Minister Manuel said that the census had included questions on subsistence farming, and these had created the framework that could be used to do more surveys in the future.

Minister Manuel said that it had been important for the census to look at questions around race, because of the history and the differences in the country.

Mr Lehohla noted that the same protocols for racial classification should have appeared in the presentation to those used in the census, and he added that StatsSA had been working to a new, and very tight set of instructions as to how results were to be delivered. He too reiterated that the manner of dealing with results was far better than in many other places.

Mr Lehohla answered the question on women by saying that there was a separate study being conducted on women and their contribution to GDP, and the results of this should be available in the next month or two.

The meeting was adjourned.


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