News & events


What is Happening in the Eastern Cape? The State of the Population in the Eastern Cape

26 July 2011
11:30 - 13:00

Date :

26 July 2011

Time :

11:30 – 13:00


  • Mr Jacques van Zuydam, Chief Director: Population and Development, National Department of Social Development
  • Dr Monde Makiwane, Chief Research Specialist, Human Sciences Research Council
  • Prof. Sakhele Buhlungu, University of Pretoria, Sociology

More than a decade into our successful democracy, the Eastern Cape remains trapped in structural poverty that negatively affects the province’s health and socioeconomic profile. Poverty in the Eastern Cape is a national disaster.  


This presentation is based on a report by Monde Makiwane (HSRC) and Dan Chimere-Dan (Africa Strategic Research Corporation), and focuses on the socio-demographic profile of the Eastern Cape. The report was based on various Stats SA data sets, which included census 2001 and series of Labour Force Surveys, General Household Survey and Demographic and Health surveys.


Eastern Cape is one of the poorest provinces in South Africa. A past experience with fundamental ramifications for the population profile of the Eastern Cape is the practice of labour reserve, which started in the early stages of colonial rule but was gradually institutionalised in the apartheid era when the National Party assumed power. Early in its administration of the area, the colonial authorities set aside large parts of the Eastern Cape as a labour reserve that was indirectly ruled by white magistrates and tribal authorities. Eastern Cape is known for having mounted one of the largest resistances in Africa against colonialism, eventually succumbing to British rule in 1894.  Besides the initial resistance to colonial rule, the area is also known as having a long history of resistance against apartheid rule.  In stark contrast to the region’s important history in resistance politics and strong participation in the liberation struggles, is its socio-economic struggles. 

Fifteen years after apartheid, the Eastern Cape – with an estimated population of 6.74 million in 2010, the majority (87.6%) of whom are African – is one of the poorest provinces in South Africa and has an extremely high level of income disparity (Gini coefficient: 0.70). This is evident in all poverty indices. 

The patterns of out-migration migration out of the region have negatively affected social development and family and social relations. The exodus of people of working ages has resulted in a higher than average proportion of the population who are either unable to work (older persons, children), or whose work is not remunerated (women whose main work is childbearing, care giving, etc.).  As such, the socio-economic development of the province is unlikely to benefit from its well-educated and entrepreneurial citizens who migrate to other parts of the country. The resulting burden of heavy economic dependency contributes to the disorganisation of families and the breakdown of the social fabrics of the provincial population

The audio presentation from the seminar is available for download

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