Ongoing urbanisation, fuelled by economic stagnation and job opportunities, is driving people – primarily those in the primary economically active age bands – to three provincial economic hubs, namely Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), and Western Cape.
According to Lightstone’s analysis of provincial data, nearly 60% of South Africans live in these three provinces, while the population in two of the economic powerhouses – Gauteng and the Western Cape – grew well above the national average over the last decade.
Just more than 16 million (27%) of South Africa’s 60.5 million people live in Gauteng, while 11.5 million (19%) live in KZN and 7.2 million people (12%) live in the Western Cape, the report showed.
Since 2011, Gauteng’s population has grown by 31% as of the end of 2022, while the Western Cape has grown by 24% and KZN by 12% – compared to the national average of 17%.
The main pull of these provinces is the prospects of economic opportunities, as South Africans grapple with high unemployment and inflation, rampant load shedding, and soaring food prices.
The latest data from Stats SA reported that the unemployment rate in South Africa rose to 32.9% in the first quarter of 2023 – highlighting the lack of opportunities for those looking for work.
While economic opportunities are the main driver behind semigration to these provinces, other pull factors are at play. Specifically:
- Gauteng has the most jobs and remains the economic capital of the country
- Western Cape is seen as the best-run province that can offer the highest quality of life
- North-West has one of the most affordable housing markets close to jobs opportunities for migrant workers
Interestingly, the semigration trend has seen the population growth of the North West increase significantly by 20% – 3% above the national average and third overall behind the Western Cape.
According to Lightstone’s data, this growth is partly due to the province’s low property value – 53% of the properties are valued below R250,000 – and its attractive mining industry for informal workers.
Mining generates more than 50% of the province’s GDP and employs a quarter of its workforce. Additionally, North West mining ventures make up 20% of South Africa’s mining industry, while more than 90% of the country’s platinum comes from the province’s mines.
These facts also explain why the North West has the second highest ratio of formal versus informal housing in the country, with 72% of the total provincial housing being informal.
However, when you consider the job opportunities for those looking for work in the formal, non-agricultural sector; the three most desirable provinces remain Gauteng, the Western Cape, and KZN.
According to CareerJunction’s latest recruitment data, Gauteng continues to offer the most employment opportunities in South Africa (52%), followed by the Western Cape (22%) and KZN (10%).
The majority of these jobs relate to sectors such as Admin, office, and support; finance; business; and management.
“The movement of job seekers to Gauteng and Western Cape is well documented – Gauteng is the country’s economic and political hub while Western Cape has a growing reputation as the country’s best run province and is increasingly attractive to semigrants and those who can work remotely,” said the Head of Digital at Lightstone Property, Hayley Ivins-Downes.
Another metric that supports the pull of job opportunities in these three provinces in the percentage of their economically active age bands relative to their total population.
According to Lightstone, the most economically productive population is the 30 to 60 age band.
Of Gauteng’s 16 million residents, 44.5% is represented by the most economically productive age group, while this age band accounts for 41% of the Western Cape’s 7.2 million and 33.5% of KZN’s 11.5 million residents.
“This suggests the economically stronger provinces have greater numbers in the middle ages, while the economically weaker provinces have proportionately more younger and older people – and less of those in the most productive economic years,” said Ivins-Downes.