South Africa vs. Zimbabwe


South AfricaZimbabwe
55,380,210 (July 2018 est.)

note: estimates for this country explicitly take into account the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS; this can result in lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality, higher death rates, lower population growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and sex than would otherwise be expected

14,030,368 (July 2018 est.)

note: estimates for this country explicitly take into account the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS; this can result in lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality, higher death rates, lower population growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and sex than would otherwise be expected

Age structure
0-14 years: 28.18% (male 7,815,651 /female 7,793,261)
15-24 years: 17.24% (male 4,711,480 /female 4,837,897)
25-54 years: 42.05% (male 11,782,848 /female 11,503,831)
55-64 years: 6.71% (male 1,725,034 /female 1,992,035)
65 years and over: 5.81% (male 1,351,991 /female 1,866,182) (2018 est.)
0-14 years: 38.62% (male 2,681,192 /female 2,736,876)
15-24 years: 20.42% (male 1,403,715 /female 1,461,168)
25-54 years: 32.22% (male 2,286,915 /female 2,234,158)
55-64 years: 4.24% (male 233,021 /female 361,759)
65 years and over: 4.5% (male 255,704 /female 375,860) (2018 est.)
Median age
total: 27.4 years (2018 est.)
male: 27.2 years
female: 27.6 years
total: 20.2 years (2018 est.)
male: 19.9 years
female: 20.4 years
Population growth rate
0.97% (2018 est.)
1.68% (2018 est.)
Birth rate
19.9 births/1,000 population (2018 est.)
34 births/1,000 population (2018 est.)
Death rate
9.3 deaths/1,000 population (2018 est.)
9.9 deaths/1,000 population (2018 est.)
Net migration rate
-0.9 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2018 est.)
-7.3 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2018 est.)
Sex ratio
at birth: 1.02 male(s)/female
0-14 years: 1 male(s)/female
15-24 years: 0.97 male(s)/female
25-54 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
55-64 years: 0.87 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.72 male(s)/female
total population: 0.98 male(s)/female (2018 est.)
at birth: 1.03 male(s)/female
0-14 years: 0.98 male(s)/female
15-24 years: 0.96 male(s)/female
25-54 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
55-64 years: 0.64 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.68 male(s)/female
total population: 0.96 male(s)/female (2018 est.)
Infant mortality rate
total: 29.9 deaths/1,000 live births (2018 est.)
male: 33.2 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 26.5 deaths/1,000 live births
total: 31.9 deaths/1,000 live births (2018 est.)
male: 35.9 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 27.7 deaths/1,000 live births
Life expectancy at birth
total population: 64.1 years (2018 est.)
male: 62.7 years
female: 65.6 years
total population: 61.1 years (2018 est.)
male: 59 years
female: 63.2 years
Total fertility rate
2.26 children born/woman (2018 est.)
3.97 children born/woman (2018 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate
20.4% (2018 est.)
12.7% (2018 est.)
noun: South African(s)
adjective: South African
noun: Zimbabwean(s)
adjective: Zimbabwean
Ethnic groups
black African 80.9%, colored 8.8%, white 7.8%, Indian/Asian 2.5% (2018 est.)

note: colored is a term used in South Africa, including on the national census, for persons of mixed race ancestry

African 99.4% (predominantly Shona; Ndebele is the second largest ethnic group), other 0.4%, unspecified 0.2% (2012 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS
7.7 million (2018 est.)
1.3 million (2018 est.)
Christian 86%, ancestral, tribal, animist, or other traditional African religions 5.4%, Muslim 1.9%, other 1.5%, nothing in particular 5.2% (2015 est.)
Protestant 74.8% (includes Apostolic 37.5%, Pentecostal 21.8%, other 15.5%), Roman Catholic 7.3%, other Christian 5.3%, traditional 1.5%, Muslim 0.5%, other 0.1%, none 10.5% (2015 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths
71,000 (2018 est.)
22,000 (2018 est.)
isiZulu (official) 24.7%, isiXhosa (official) 15.6%, Afrikaans (official) 12.1%, Sepedi (official) 9.8%, Setswana (official) 8.9%, English (official) 8.4%, Sesotho (official) 8%, Xitsonga (official) 4%, siSwati (official) 2.6%, Tshivenda (official) 2.5%, isiNdebele (official) 1.6%, other (includes Khoi, Nama, and San languages) 1.9% (2017 est.)
note: data represent language spoken most often at home
Shona (official; most widely spoken), Ndebele (official, second most widely spoken), English (official; traditionally used for official business), 13 minority languages (official; includes Chewa, Chibarwe, Kalanga, Koisan, Nambya, Ndau, Shangani, sign language, Sotho, Tonga, Tswana, Venda, and Xhosa)
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 94.4%
male: 95.4%
female: 93.4% (2015 est.)
definition: age 15 and over can read and write English
total population: 86.5%
male: 88.5%
female: 84.6% (2015 est.)
Major infectious diseases
degree of risk: intermediate (2016)
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever (2016)
water contact diseases: schistosomiasis (2016)
degree of risk: high (2016)
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial and protozoal diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever (2016)
vectorborne diseases: malaria and dengue fever (2016)
water contact diseases: schistosomiasis (2016)
animal contact diseases: rabies (2016)
School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)
total: 14 years
male: 13 years
female: 14 years (2016)
total: 10 years
male: 10 years
female: 10 years (2013)
Education expenditures
6.1% of GDP (2017)
7.5% of GDP (2014)
urban population: 66.9% of total population (2019)
rate of urbanization: 1.97% annual rate of change (2015-20 est.)
urban population: 32.2% of total population (2019)
rate of urbanization: 2.19% annual rate of change (2015-20 est.)
Drinking water source
improved: urban: 99.6% of population
rural: 81.4% of population
total: 93.2% of population
unimproved: urban: 0.4% of population
rural: 18.6% of population
total: 6.8% of population (2015 est.)
improved: urban: 97% of population
rural: 67.3% of population
total: 76.9% of population
unimproved: urban: 3% of population
rural: 32.7% of population
total: 23.1% of population (2015 est.)
Sanitation facility access
improved: urban: 69.6% of population (2015 est.)
rural: 60.5% of population (2015 est.)
total: 66.4% of population (2015 est.)
unimproved: urban: 30.4% of population (2015 est.)
rural: 39.5% of population (2015 est.)
total: 33.6% of population (2015 est.)
improved: urban: 49.3% of population (2015 est.)
rural: 30.8% of population (2015 est.)
total: 36.8% of population (2015 est.)
unimproved: urban: 50.7% of population (2015 est.)
rural: 69.2% of population (2015 est.)
total: 63.2% of population (2015 est.)
Major cities - population
9.453 million Johannesburg (includes Ekurhuleni), 4.524 million Cape Town (legislative capital), 3.145 million Durban, 2.473 million PRETORIA (administrative capital), 1.242 million Port Elizabeth, 769,000 Vereeniging (2019)
1.521 million HARARE (capital) (2019)
Maternal mortality rate
119 deaths/100,000 live births (2017 est.)
458 deaths/100,000 live births (2017 est.)
Children under the age of 5 years underweight
5.9% (2016)
8.5% (2015)
Health expenditures
8.2% (2015)
10.3% (2015)
Physicians density
0.91 physicians/1,000 population (2017)
0.08 physicians/1,000 population (2014)
Obesity - adult prevalence rate
28.3% (2016)
15.5% (2016)
Demographic profile

South Africa’s youthful population is gradually aging, as the country’s total fertility rate (TFR) has declined dramatically from about 6 children per woman in the 1960s to roughly 2.2 in 2014. This pattern is similar to fertility trends in South Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa, and sets South Africa apart from the rest of sub-Saharan Africa, where the average TFR remains higher than other regions of the world. Today, South Africa’s decreasing number of reproductive age women is having fewer children, as women increase their educational attainment, workforce participation, and use of family planning methods; delay marriage; and opt for smaller families.

As the proportion of working-age South Africans has grown relative to children and the elderly, South Africa has been unable to achieve a demographic dividend because persistent high unemployment and the prevalence of HIV/AIDs have created a larger-than-normal dependent population. HIV/AIDS was also responsible for South Africa’s average life expectancy plunging to less than 43 years in 2008; it has rebounded to 63 years as of 2017. HIV/AIDS continues to be a serious public health threat, although awareness-raising campaigns and the wider availability of anti-retroviral drugs is stabilizing the number of new cases, enabling infected individuals to live longer, healthier lives, and reducing mother-child transmissions.

Migration to South Africa began in the second half of the 17th century when traders from the Dutch East India Company settled in the Cape and started using slaves from South and southeast Asia (mainly from India but also from present-day Indonesia, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Malaysia) and southeast Africa (Madagascar and Mozambique) as farm laborers and, to a lesser extent, as domestic servants. The Indian subcontinent remained the Cape Colony’s main source of slaves in the early 18th century, while slaves were increasingly obtained from southeast Africa in the latter part of the 18th century and into the 19th century under British rule.

After slavery was completely abolished in the British Empire in 1838, South Africa’s colonists turned to temporary African migrants and indentured labor through agreements with India and later China, countries that were anxious to export workers to alleviate domestic poverty and overpopulation. Of the more than 150,000 indentured Indian laborers hired to work in Natal’s sugar plantations between 1860 and 1911, most exercised the right as British subjects to remain permanently (a small number of Indian immigrants came freely as merchants). Because of growing resentment toward Indian workers, the 63,000 indentured Chinese workers who mined gold in Transvaal between 1904 and 1911 were under more restrictive contracts and generally were forced to return to their homeland.

In the late 19th century and nearly the entire 20th century, South Africa’s then British colonies’ and Dutch states’ enforced selective immigration policies that welcomed "assimilable" white Europeans as permanent residents but excluded or restricted other immigrants. Following the Union of South Africa’s passage of a law in 1913 prohibiting Asian and other non-white immigrants and its elimination of the indenture system in 1917, temporary African contract laborers from neighboring countries became the dominant source of labor in the burgeoning mining industries. Others worked in agriculture and smaller numbers in manufacturing, domestic service, transportation, and construction. Throughout the 20th century, at least 40% of South Africa’s miners were foreigners; the numbers peaked at over 80% in the late 1960s. Mozambique, Lesotho, Botswana, and Eswatini were the primary sources of miners, and Malawi and Zimbabwe were periodic suppliers.

Under apartheid, a "two gates" migration policy focused on policing and deporting illegal migrants rather than on managing migration to meet South Africa’s development needs. The exclusionary 1991 Aliens Control Act limited labor recruitment to the highly skilled as defined by the ruling white minority, while bilateral labor agreements provided exemptions that enabled the influential mining industry and, to a lesser extent, commercial farms, to hire temporary, low-paid workers from neighboring states. Illegal African migrants were often tacitly allowed to work for low pay in other sectors but were always under threat of deportation.

The abolishment of apartheid in 1994 led to the development of a new inclusive national identity and the strengthening of the country’s restrictive immigration policy. Despite South Africa’s protectionist approach to immigration, the downsizing and closing of mines, and rising unemployment, migrants from across the continent believed that the country held work opportunities. Fewer African labor migrants were issued temporary work permits and, instead, increasingly entered South Africa with visitors’ permits or came illegally, which drove growth in cross-border trade and the informal job market. A new wave of Asian immigrants has also arrived over the last two decades, many operating small retail businesses.

In the post-apartheid period, increasing numbers of highly skilled white workers emigrated, citing dissatisfaction with the political situation, crime, poor services, and a reduced quality of life. The 2002 Immigration Act and later amendments were intended to facilitate the temporary migration of skilled foreign labor to fill labor shortages, but instead the legislation continues to create regulatory obstacles. Although the education system has improved and brain drain has slowed in the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis, South Africa continues to face skills shortages in several key sectors, such as health care and technology.

South Africa’s stability and economic growth has acted as a magnet for refugees and asylum seekers from nearby countries, despite the prevalence of discrimination and xenophobic violence. Refugees have included an estimated 350,000 Mozambicans during its 1980s civil war and, more recently, several thousand Somalis, Congolese, and Ethiopians. Nearly all of the tens of thousands of Zimbabweans who have applied for asylum in South Africa have been categorized as economic migrants and denied refuge.

Zimbabwe’s progress in reproductive, maternal, and child health has stagnated in recent years. According to a 2010 Demographic and Health Survey, contraceptive use, the number of births attended by skilled practitioners, and child mortality have either stalled or somewhat deteriorated since the mid-2000s. Zimbabwe’s total fertility rate has remained fairly stable at about 4 children per woman for the last two decades, although an uptick in the urban birth rate in recent years has caused a slight rise in the country’s overall fertility rate. Zimbabwe’s HIV prevalence rate dropped from approximately 29% to 15% since 1997 but remains among the world’s highest and continues to suppress the country’s life expectancy rate. The proliferation of HIV/AIDS information and prevention programs and personal experience with those suffering or dying from the disease have helped to change sexual behavior and reduce the epidemic.

Historically, the vast majority of Zimbabwe’s migration has been internal – a rural-urban flow. In terms of international migration, over the last 40 years Zimbabwe has gradually shifted from being a destination country to one of emigration and, to a lesser degree, one of transit (for East African illegal migrants traveling to South Africa). As a British colony, Zimbabwe attracted significant numbers of permanent immigrants from the UK and other European countries, as well as temporary economic migrants from Malawi, Mozambique, and Zambia. Although Zimbabweans have migrated to South Africa since the beginning of the 20th century to work as miners, the first major exodus from the country occurred in the years before and after independence in 1980. The outward migration was politically and racially influenced; a large share of the white population of European origin chose to leave rather than live under a new black-majority government.

In the 1990s and 2000s, economic mismanagement and hyperinflation sparked a second, more diverse wave of emigration. This massive out migration – primarily to other southern African countries, the UK, and the US – has created a variety of challenges, including brain drain, illegal migration, and human smuggling and trafficking. Several factors have pushed highly skilled workers to go abroad, including unemployment, lower wages, a lack of resources, and few opportunities for career growth.

Contraceptive prevalence rate
54.6% (2016)
66.8% (2015)
Dependency ratios
total dependency ratio: 52.5 (2015 est.)
youth dependency ratio: 44.8 (2015 est.)
elderly dependency ratio: 7.7 (2015 est.)
potential support ratio: 12.9 (2015 est.)
total dependency ratio: 79.5 (2015 est.)
youth dependency ratio: 74.4 (2015 est.)
elderly dependency ratio: 5.1 (2015 est.)
potential support ratio: 19.7 (2015 est.)

Source: CIA Factbook