Another semigration shift in South Africa

 ·12 Oct 2023

The 2022 Census from Stats SA has thrown another spanner in the works regarding the semigration narrative in South Africa.

Semigration refers to the internal movement of people in a country from one province to another.

The Western Cape has often been cited as the semigration hotspot of South Africa, as residents, especially from Gauteng, move in search of better service delivery.

Remote work, popularised during the Covid-19 pandemic, has been cited as a reason for the increase in semigration as professionals no longer have to live in the hustle and bustle of Gauteng.

However, there has also been a pushback over this claim, as Gauteng remains the dominant province.

“Semigration is a fancy word, but there are only so many people who can afford to move and only so many jobs in the Western Cape,” Steve Brookes, CEO of Balwin Properties, said.

In addition, looking at Stats SA’s revisions to provincial GDP growth numbers, Isaah Mhlanga, Chief Economist at RMB, said that Gauteng’s economy saw the largest revision of R449 billion from 2013 to 2019.

This was far greater than the R210 billion revision for the Western Cape.

“Despite the apparent semigration phenomenon to the Western Cape from Gauteng, the revisions to provincial GDP statistics suggest that the proportion of the Gauteng economy remained relatively unchanged at 33.1% in 2022 from 33.2% in 2013,” Mhlanga said.

“On the other hand, the contribution of the Western Cape to national GDP moderated to 13.9% in 2022 from 14.1% in 2013.”

Gauteng’s average growth rate was also 1.5% from 2013 to 2019, higher than the Western Cape’s 1.4%.

“It is possible that in the period since the pandemic, there could be some changes in these growth rates, but up to 2019, the reality, as shown by the provincial GDP figures, still points to Gauteng being the fastest-growing province followed by the Western Cape,” Mhlanga noted.

Who’s moving?

However, migration data from Census 2022 paints a different picture.

Gauteng is still the nation’s migration hotspot, with a total net migration of nearly 400,000 from 2011 to 2022.

The Western Cape is in second place, with a net migration of just under 295,000.

Interestingly, the Free State, KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape and Limpopo had negative net migration over the 11 years.

Source: Stats SA

However, looking more closely at Gauteng and the Western Cape, it becomes clear that Gauteng is more of an immigration hub – and not the leader in semigration.

Risenga Maluleke noted that the population growth comes from a large number of people from outside South Africa – with roughly 50% of immigrants choosing Gauteng as their destination.

Internally, the most significant provincial influxes into Gauteng come from Limpopo, followed by KwaZulu-Natal and then the North-West.

Whereas, in the Western Cape, people from Gauteng, the Eastern Cape and outside South Africa are making an almost equal contribution, Maluleke said.

Source: Stats SA

Hence, the narrative that many South Africans are moving from Gauteng to the Western Cape is not inaccurate, even if the former remains the nation’s economic hub.

Read: The cities in South Africa where billionaires pay up to R100,000 per sqm for apartments

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