South Africa - Rural population

The value for Rural population in South Africa was 19,439,950 as of 2018. As the graph below shows, over the past 58 years this indicator reached a maximum value of 19,480,490 in 2015 and a minimum value of 9,128,066 in 1960.

Definition: Rural population refers to people living in rural areas as defined by national statistical offices. It is calculated as the difference between total population and urban population. Aggregation of urban and rural population may not add up to total population because of different country coverages.

Source: World Bank staff estimates based on the United Nations Population Division's World Urbanization Prospects: 2018 Revision.

See also:

Year Value
1960 9,128,066
1961 9,324,278
1962 9,538,722
1963 9,760,591
1964 9,989,722
1965 10,225,890
1966 10,468,780
1967 10,718,500
1968 10,975,780
1969 11,241,590
1970 11,518,440
1971 11,815,630
1972 12,122,910
1973 12,437,440
1974 12,755,290
1975 13,074,030
1976 13,391,520
1977 13,709,430
1978 14,033,830
1979 14,373,090
1980 14,728,150
1981 15,079,860
1982 15,450,300
1983 15,830,990
1984 16,211,190
1985 16,544,660
1986 16,779,800
1987 16,998,300
1988 17,209,270
1989 17,424,280
1990 17,650,630
1991 17,896,130
1992 18,161,430
1993 18,421,370
1994 18,657,840
1995 18,859,070
1996 19,022,390
1997 19,151,340
1998 19,250,770
1999 19,326,730
2000 19,385,130
2001 19,427,950
2002 19,430,460
2003 19,413,700
2004 19,392,870
2005 19,374,410
2006 19,358,450
2007 19,345,330
2008 19,337,330
2009 19,339,260
2010 19,350,790
2011 19,373,630
2012 19,404,870
2013 19,439,260
2014 19,466,370
2015 19,480,490
2016 19,479,620
2017 19,465,650
2018 19,439,950

Development Relevance: The rural population is calculated using the urban share reported by the United Nations Population Division. There is no universal standard for distinguishing rural from urban areas, and any urban-rural dichotomy is an oversimplification. The two distinct images - isolated farm, thriving metropolis - represent poles on a continuum. Life changes along a variety of dimensions, moving from the most remote forest outpost through fields and pastures, past tiny hamlets, through small towns with weekly farm markets, into intensively cultivated areas near large towns and small cities, eventually reaching the center of a megacity. Along the way access to infrastructure, social services, and nonfarm employment increase, and with them population density and income. A 2005 World Bank Policy Research Paper proposes an operational definition of rurality based on population density and distance to large cities (Chomitz, Buys, and Thomas 2005). The report argues that these criteria are important gradients along which economic behavior and appropriate development interventions vary substantially. Where population densities are low, markets of all kinds are thin, and the unit cost of delivering most social services and many types of infrastructure is high. Where large urban areas are distant, farm-gate or factory-gate prices of outputs will be low and input prices will be high, and it will be difficult to recruit skilled people to public service or private enterprises. Thus, low population density and remoteness together define a set of rural areas that face special development challenges. Countries differ in the way they classify population as "urban" or "rural." Most countries use an urban classification related to the size or characteristics of settlements. Some define urban areas based on the presence of certain infrastructure and services. And other countries designate urban areas based on administrative arrangements. Because of national differences in the characteristics that distinguish urban from rural areas, the distinction between urban and rural population is not amenable to a single definition that would be applicable to all countries. Rural population methodology is defined by various national statistical offices. In the United States, for example, the US Census Bureau's urban-rural classification is fundamentally a delineation of geographical areas, identifying both individual urban areas and the rural areas of the nation. "Rural" encompasses all population, housing, and territory not included within an urban area.

Limitations and Exceptions: Aggregation of urban and rural population may not add up to total population because of different country coverage. There is no consistent and universally accepted standard for distinguishing urban from rural areas, in part because of the wide variety of situations across countries. Estimates of the world's urban population would change significantly if China, India, and a few other populous nations were to change their definition of urban centers. Because the estimates of city and metropolitan area are based on national definitions of what constitutes a city or metropolitan area, cross-country comparisons should be made with caution. To estimate urban populations, UN ratios of urban to total population were applied to the World Bank's estimates of total population.

Statistical Concept and Methodology: Rural population is calculated as the difference between the total population and the urban population. Rural population is approximated as the midyear nonurban population. While a practical means of identifying the rural population, it is not a precise measure. The United Nations Population Division and other agencies provide current population estimates for developing countries that lack recent census data and pre- and post-census estimates for countries with census data.

Aggregation method: Sum

Periodicity: Annual


Topic: Environment Indicators

Sub-Topic: Density & urbanization