South Africa’s Census 2022 revealed a population growth of 62 million, with Gauteng becoming the most populous province. However, the census also revealed a high undercount, with 31% of people and 30% of households missing. This undercount may set a new international record. The census may need to be reimagined to incorporate big data and address declining survey response rates.

The process

South Africa’s National Statistics Council and Stats SA conducted a post-enumeration survey to test the census and Post Enumeration Survey. The council engaged with the data and flagged some variables, but no red flags were raised. The undercount was high, but not due to Stats SA’s efforts.

Why the undercount

The undercount in the 2021 South African census is due to factors such as the COVID-19 pandemic, low trust in the government, resistance to self-enumeration, and lower response rates. The Western Cape, the only province not run by the African National Congress, has the highest undercount at 35.58% of people and 36.3% of households. The future of the census remains uncertain due to these challenges.