MORE than a quarter of a million people quit the Eastern Cape for other provinces in the five years to 2011, Statistics South Africa said yesterday, denting hopes for economic growth in the province.
The continued brain drain could see the Eastern Cape drawing less investment which, in turn, would undermine economic growth prospects, a leading economist warned.
A reduced share of the national population also means a reduced share of the national budget . The migration has led to a 5.1% reduction in the province’s allocation for this financial year.
A 2013 mid-year population estimate released by StatsSA showed the overall national population is up by more than a million to 52.98 million since the 2011 census, but estimated outward migration from the Eastern Cape at 264449 between 2006 and 2011.
Census 2011 showed that the net loss of people over the 10 years (2001 to 2011) was 278261 with just 150000 coming to live in the Eastern Cape.
Yesterday’s update indicated an accelerating migration to other provinces.
Economist Dawie Roodt from the Efficient Group said long-term population migration could lead to disinvestment .
Lack of jobs and reliance on a few economic sectors drove Eastern Cape people to the economic hubs of Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban.
Announcing the latest figures, statistician-general Pali Lehohla said migration was an important demographic process shaping provincial populations.
The Eastern Cape was losing people faster than any other province, with Limpopo seeing a net out-migration of 227919 people. During the same period, Gauteng and the Western Cape had a net inflow of 1046641 and 307411 .
Roodt said losing people to migration or death was bad news for any economy. “The end result is that you lose money. The cities and countries that attract people can attract investments and gain skills and economic growth. The reverse is also true . ”
But the CEO of the Eastern Cape Socio-Economic Consultative Council, Andrew Murray, said outward migration in the Eastern Cape was historical and not always negative as remittances flowed to the province from family members working in urban centres.
The Eastern Cape’s outward migration has raised concerns in the midst of a restructuring mining sector, upon which the province’s rural population depends.
AngloGold announced this week it wanted to move towards greater mechanisation while last week Anglo Platinum said it might retrench 6000 of its mineworkers.
Murray said there was a need to retain skills in the Eastern Cape as it was mainly young and economically active people who opted for greener pastures .
“Our outward migration is an apartheid legacy. The mining industry developed around cheap labour from the Eastern Cape,” he said.
“From a policy perspective we need to develop human capacity in the province through getting more private investments and creating more entrepreneurial opportunities. We must develop facilities to encourage young people to stay.”
Investment Solutions chief strategist Chris Hart said it became a vicious circle . “When people leave, it indicates a weak economy and it also perpetuates the weakness. Many people that leave the Eastern Cape are skilled, and they do so because they believe the Eastern Cape offers few opportunities.” — firstname.lastname@example.org