01.01.05. Ageing and life expectancy | South Africa

01.01.05. Ageing and life expectancy | South Africa

12 Aug 2022

Persons aged 60 years and over comprised about 8.5% (i.e., approximately 4.9 million people) of the population and has an estimated growth rate from 1.21% (2002-2003) to 3.21% (2017-2018) (StatsSA, 2018d).

Life expectancy

Life expectancy for men is 61.1 years and 67.3 years for females (StatsSA, 2018d). Persons 65 and older comprised 5.6% of the South African population, of which 0.95% are between 75 and 79 years and 0.97% are 80 years and over (StatsSA, 2018d).

Total dependency ratio

South Africa has a total dependency ratio of 52.5% (i.e., defined as persons aged 0-14 and 65 and older who are non-working, compared to the number of persons if working age), of which the dependency ratios for persons aged 0-14 is 44.8% and 65 years and over is at 7.7% (Index Mundi, 2018). More than half of the country’s population is economically dependent, outnumbering, as well relying on a minority that is employed and supporting the non-working.

Old-age dependency ratio

Comparing persons of non-working age to the number of those of working age, the South African dependency ratio for older persons are estimated at 7.7% (Index Mundi, 2018).

Life expectancy at birth by gender

Largely due to the impact of HIV/AIDS, life expectancy decreased between 2002 and 2006. However, the expansion of health programmes and an increase in the availability of anti-retroviral treatment has partly increased life expectancy since 2007 (StatsSA, 2018d). For the year 2018, life expectancy at birth is estimated at 61.1 years for men in South Africa and 67.3 years for women (StatsSA, 2018d).

Life expectancy at birth

South Africa’s life expectancy at birth is estimated for 2015-2020 as being 63.7 years (United Nations, 2017). The country has also seen a decrease in the infant mortality rate from 53.2 deaths per 1000 live births in 2002 to 36.4 in 2018 (StatsSA, 2018d). The mortality rate for children under 5 years has also decreased for the same period from 80.1 to 45.0 child deaths per 1000 live births (StatsSA, 2018d).

Median age of the population

The median age for the South African population in 2017 is 27.1 years of age, for which 26.9 years are male and 27.3 female (Index Mundi, 2018).

Total fertility rate

Fertility rate calculations from the year 1975 to 2100 estimate an overall decrease in children born to South African women.

For the year 2017, the total fertility rate for South Africa is 2.29 children born per woman (Index Mundi, 2018). Fertility varied by province for 2016-2021, with the Eastern Cape (2.89) and Limpopo province (2.86) ranking highest for live births per woman in South Africa.

Furthermore, South Africa is experiencing a decline in fertility rates, a trend that contradicts predictions for Sub-Saharan Africa (Kohler & Behrman, 2015).


Index Mundi. (2018). South Africa Demographics Profile 2018. South Africa Demographics Profile 2018. Available from:  https://www.indexmundi.com/south_africa/demographics_profile.html

Kohler, H., & Behrman, J. (2015). South Africa Perspectives Population.

StatsSA. (2018d). Quarterly Labour Force Survey. Available from: https://www.statssa.gov.za/?p=11882

United Nations. (2017). World Population Prospects The 2017 Revision Key Findings and Advance Tables. World Population Prospects The 2017, 1–46. Available from: https://population.un.org/wpp/publications/files/wpp2017_keyfindings.pdf