Limited resources at Stats SA lead to deterioration of data quality and planning

“Although Statistics South Africa continues to do exemplary work, limited resources constrain their work,” says Burgert Gildenhuys, director of Spatial Data Services Africa (SDSA).
Stats SA released their Mid-Year Population Estimates (MPYE) for 2022 this week. According to the national statistical service of South Africa, the MPYE offers key indices and estimates regarding births, deaths and migratory movements in the country, as well as key estimates by age, sex and geographical data that assist in planning for and addressing the needs of the population.
“SDSA welcomes the release of what was usually a very valuable dataset,” explains Gildenhuys. “One would typically expect data systems and releases to evolve and improve. However, releasing the mid-year estimates only on the provincial and not at the municipal level is a step backwards for StatsSA.
“The lack of local detail will adversely affect all commercial data sets that use the mid-year population data as a benchmark. Consequently, the quality and reliability of available demographic data will again deteriorate.
“The data’s value is not much beyond political speech writing. It only confirms already known trends in migration and age and gender in the South African population.”
The report estimates the country’s population to be 60,6 million (June 2022). It also indicates an improvement in life expectancy at birth by around ten months to 62,8 years compared to 2021.
The 2022 MYPE does not include inputs from the census conducted in 2022. However, census data will be released in 2023, and these will be built into the 2024 estimates. Subsequently, there will be no mid-year population estimates report next year.
“In a rapidly developing country, it is not acceptable to have detailed population censuses more than a decade apart,” says Gildenhuys.
In its mission statement, Stats SA’s vision is to improve lives through data ecosystems and transform the production, coordination and use of statistics through optimisation, partnerships and innovation.
“At Spatial Data Services Africa (, we maintain detailed data at a local and detailed level to overcome the mentioned deficiencies to the best of our ability. Fortunately, open-source data is becoming more accessible through technological advancement, but ground-truthing can only occur by relating to good benchmarks from the official custodian data in a country. The unfortunate result is that the deterioration of data quality affects the integrity of planning and decision-making across a country’s entire spectrum,” says Gildenhuys.