Meine Merkliste Geteilte Merkliste PDF oder EPUB erstellen

Introduction | South Africa |

South Africa International Migration in South Africa


Malte Steinbrink

/ 2 Minuten zu lesen

The Republic of South Africa is one of the BRICS countries and regarded as the economic motor in Africa’s southern region. Since its colonization by the Netherlands and Britain in the 17th and 18th centuries, this country has attracted migrants from Europe and other parts of the world.

Community project in cape town: The Republic of South Africa is often referred to as the "Rainbow Nation" due to its multicultural population. (© picture-alliance/dpa)

The state-organized racial segregation policy known as Apartheid (1948-1994) had a long-lasting impact on the movement of migrants within and to South Africa. Already before Apartheid, but especially during this era, migration policy was based on racist selection criteria. White immigrants were welcome, while Black people had only few possibilities to immigrate legally. They were only allowed to stay in the country temporarily, primarily to work in the gold and diamond mines.

Background informationSouth Africa

Name*: Republic of South Africa
Capital: Pretoria (executive), Cape Town (legislative), and Bloemfontein (judicial)
Official languages: IsiZulu 22.7%, IsiXhosa 16%, Afrikaans 13.5%, English 9.6%, Sepedi 9.1%, Setswana 8%, Sesotho 7.6%, Xitsonga 4.5%, siSwati 2.5%, Tshivenda 2.4%, isiNdebele 2.1%
Area: 1,220,813 km2
Population (2014, est.): 54,002,000
Population density (2011): 42.4 inhabitants/km2
Population growth (2014, est.): 1.58%
Population according to ethnic self-identification:
80,2% Black African
8,8% Colored
8,4% White
2.5% Indian or Asian
Foreign population (2012): 1,692,242
Labor force (2012): 18,774,132
Unemployment rate (2013): 24.7%
Religions: Protestant 36.6%, Catholic 7.1%, other Christian 36%, Muslim 1.5%, other 2.3%, unknown 1.4%, no religion 15.1%

*Sources of background information: Statistics South Africa, CIA.

This racist migration legislation was abrogated formally only in 2002 with the passing of the Immigration Act, which is still the basis of South African migration policy. Nonetheless, the legacy of Apartheid still shapes life in South Africa to this day. Migration policy continues to focus its efforts on controlling and restricting migration. Especially immigrants from other African countries face social exclusion. Xenophobia is prevalent in the South African population. It pervades all social classes and is let loose time after time in the form of violent attacks against immigrants who are viewed as competitors for scarce resources such as employment, living space, and wealth. For this reason (labor) migrants are only recruited for those segments of the labor market which cannot be filled by native workers, and they are only given temporary residence permits.

At the same time, there is a significant shortage of skilled labor in South Africa. This is exacerbated by the emigration of qualified South Africans as well as by the spread of HIV/AIDS. Overall, the number of people who leave the country is higher than the number immigrating. Furthermore, migration policy has not yet been able to use immigrants’ potential to benefit the socio-economic development of the country.

Weitere Inhalte

Dr. Malte Steinbrink is social geographer at the Institute for Geography (IfG) and member of the Institute for Migration Research and Intercultural Studies (IMIS) of the University of Osnabrück, Germany. He is Senior Research Fellow at the University of Johannesburg (UJ). His research interests comprise geographic development and mobility research (especially migration and tourism) with a special focus on social inequalities and processes of urbanization in the Global South.
Email: E-Mail Link: