South Africa’s white population is shrinking – here’s how it could look over the next 20 years

 ·16 Aug 2018

Solidarity’s Research Institute has published a new report focusing on the demographics of Afrikaans speakers in South Africa, projecting how specific population groups are expected to change over the next few decades.

One of the key findings by Solidarity was that Afrikaners (white Afrikaans speakers) and Afrikaans speakers in general are expected to grow in number over the next decade – counter to many expectations –  with the group projecting 7.1 million Afrikaans speakers in the country by the end of 2018.

This is up by almost 300,000 people from the last national census, taken in 2011.

The group based its projections on census data from 2001 and 2011, as well as statistical releases from Stats SA and other research. However it did note that some data points, like birth rates, are based on conservative estimates.

While the data shows population growth over the shorter term, the projections to 2041 show a downward trend for South Africa’s white population.

Breaking the numbers into four distinct categories, Solidarity’s research shows that, while Afrikaans speakers will continue to rise in number, this is largely due to a growing base of non-white Afrikaans speakers.

Afrikaans speakers

For white Afrikaners, projected populations show a rise to approximately 2.75 million people by 2021, and thereafter a steady decline to 2.58 million by 2041.

White Afrikaans speakers

The group also looked at white English speakers in the country, showing a similar trend, with an expected population of 1.56 million in 2021, steadily declining to 1.38 million by 2041.

White English speakers

Taking both white English and Afrikaans speakers into account (along with those classified under ‘other’), South Africa’s white population is expected to go from around 4.58 million people in 2021 to 4.23 million by 2041 – a loss of almost 8%.

SA white population


The findings line up with statistics released by Stats SA over the past few years, which have shown a declining white population in South Africa – whether it be in number or proportion of the total population.

One of the key reasons for the decline have presented themselves in the migration data, which shows that over 612,000 white South Africans will have left the country since between 1985 and 2021 – 430,000 of which will have left in the 20 year period between 2001 and 2021 (at a rate of 21,000 a year, in-line with most of the population declines).

Between 2016 and 2021, Stats SA expects 115,000 white South Africans to have emigrated.

According to Solidarity, however, the census data for South Africa shows that, for the Afrikaner population at least, things may be less severe than initially thought.

The researchers noted that census data between 2001 and 2011 showed that there were more Afrikaners over the age of 30 in 2011 than there were over the age of 20 in 2001, which indicated that there may have been a wave of Afrikaners returning to the country in the interim.

Stats SA noted in 2017 that its emigration figures had to be revised after birth rate and death rate data was factored in, showing that levels of emigration were lower than previously stated.

You can read the full report (in Afrikaans) on Marula Media.

Read: South Africa’s white population is still shrinking

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