Statistics South Africa has updated its mid-year population statistics, showing a dramatic shift in decades-long emigration numbers.
This was reflected by a significant decrease in the amount of South Africans previously thought to have left the country, as well as a decrease in the number of black immigrants entering the country, reports the City Press.
It was previously reported that 440,000 white South Africans had left the country between 1986 and 2006, but the updated figures show that the number is closer to 280,000.
This represents a drop of 36% in the estimate for net emigration by white South Africans.
The new estimate for net immigration by black Africans in that period has also changed by a similar degree.
Previous figures reported by Stats SA showed that 1.5 million people were added to the black population through immigration – this is now estimated to have been closer to 1 million.
What caused the discrepancy?
Speaking to the City Press, Stats SA explained that the migration numbers were to some extent a “guesstimate”.
“The migration assumptions in the report are indeed plausible assumptions in the face of the lack of more empirical data,” it said.
This is because the group used other factors such as fertility and mortality, alongside national census figures, to determine the net migration numbers.
The reason the numbers changed was to make the population estimates by race match up with the population structure recorded in the 2011 national census, given what is known about births and deaths.
If new data contradicts the old fertility rates or mortality rates, Stats SA has to alter its assumptions about migration to make the census numbers make sense.
“Recently, there has been evidence to suggest that there has been a fluctuation of fertility in between the censuses,” said Stats SA.
“Bearing in mind the changes in fertility assumptions, it is expected that the assumptions of either mortality and/or migration would also likely change if we are to reach the census 2011 age and sex population structure,” Stats SA said.