Education: censuses in SA
ACENSUS is the process of collecting information about every member of a country’s population. The government counts how many people there are in the country and collects other information such as how many speak each of the various languages, the level of poverty and any progress made since the previous census.
The government then uses this information to plan for the future of the country’s citizens – and hopefully improve it.
Let’s find out more about South Africa’s most recent census, which was taken in 2011, and the interesting conclusions we can draw from the statistics it provided.
CENSUSES IN SA
The first official census in SA was conducted in 1798 when the British occupied the Dutch Cape Colony. It was in a time of slavery and the head of each colonial household had to give an indication of how many family members, as well as how many slaves and livestock, lived on their property.
During the time the Cape was a British colony, a publication was printed every year from 1823 to 1837 with statistics on its residents. This was informally known as the annual blue book. In 1865 and 1875 the British authorities in the Cape Colony also conducted official censuses. In 1880 a census was taken in the Orange Free State and Natal had its turn in 1891.
An 1891 Cape census found there were 1 527 224 people in the colony, of whom 376 987 (or 24,68%) were white.
Two years after the British defeated the Boer republics in the Second Anglo-Boer War in 1902 a national census of South Africa was taken. At the time the country, which then consisted of the British Cape, Natal, Transvaal and Orange River colonies, had a population of about 5,2 million – that’s one tenth of today’s population.
In 1904 there were 3 490 291 black people, 1 117 234 white people, 444 661 coloured people and 122 311 Indians and other Asians.
In 1910 the British Empire integrated its SA colonies into the Union of South Africa, and took a 1911 a census of all races.
In 1921, 1936 and 1951 more censuses were held that included all races but in 1918, 1926, 1931 and 1941 censuses of only the white population were conducted. After the National Party (NP) came into power in 1948 and implemented its apartheid policy, censuses were taken in 1960, 1970, 1980, 1985 and 1991.
In 1994, SA became a democratic country and since then there have been three censuses – in 1996, 2001 and 2011.