atest census from South Africa depicts a country deeply split by race and income, as well as a rapidly growing population, despite the scourge of AIDS.
Almost twenty years after the fall of apartheid, white South African households earned six times as much as their black counterparts as of 2011.
On average, the annual income for white households stands at about 365,000 rand ($42,000); followed by Indians at 251,000 rand; mixed race/coloureds at 251,500 rand; and blacks at 60,600 rand.
Ironically, income for black households spiked by almost 170 percent [double the increase for whites] over the past ten years (i.e., the last census) and that still was not enough to close the gap with whites, Indians and coloureds.
Meanwhile, South Africa's population is steadily increasing, up to almost 52 million from 45 million just a decade ago. Nearly 80 percent of the population is black. About 9 percent of the population is of mixed race, 8.9 percent is white and 2.5 percent is Asian.
South Africa's population is likely to keep increasing and getting younger – indeed, the largest age group are children under the age of five, now numbering almost 11 million.
Overall, 66 percent of the population are between 15 and 64 years old, and 29 percent are below the age of 15.
The surge in population is somewhat surprising given that South Africa has one of the world's highest incidence of HIV – one-ninth of the population is infected.
"It could be that HIV [infection] rates have levelled out and fertility has begun to recover," said Diego Iturralde, Statistics South Africa's demographic analysis executive director.
Other data revealed by the census presented a rather mixed bag.
On the positive side: the number of homes with flush toilets has risen to 57 percent from 50 percent in 2001; the number of people who completed higher education edged up to 11.8 percent from 8.4 percent in 2001; the number of homes with electrical service rose to 84.7 percent in 2011 from 58.2 percent in 1996; mobile phone ownership has tripled since 2011.
On the negative side: Almost 30 percent of the workforce is unemployed (for blacks, at least 50 percent are jobless); almost 4 percent of all children – three million – are orphans; the number of people living in shacks has climbed to nearly two million since 2001.
Jacob Zuma, South Africa's president lamented: “Great strides have been made. However, much remains to be done to further improve the livelihoods of our people especially in terms of significant disparities that still exist between the rich and poor.”
He added: "These figures tell us that at the bottom of the rung is the black majority who continue to be confronted by deep poverty, unemployment and inequality, despite the progress that we have made since 1994.”
Zuma then looked to a more hopeful future.
“This [census] is the tale of our national pride, the South Africa I know, the home I understand, our census report,” he said.
“The results are used to ensure equity in the distribution of government services and funds among various regions and districts for basic services. The progress from 1994 to now should be contextualized with the need for quicker service delivery and faster turnaround times.”
To contact the editor, e-mail: