Pretoria — In a country where much is made of the lack of service delivery, a surprising element of the Census 2011 results is the story it tells about service delivery in the past decade.
This is according to Howard Gabriels, chair of the Statistics Council, who was speaking after President Jacob Zuma was handed the Census 2011 results in Pretoria on Tuesday.
South Africans' access to piped water, proper sanitation and electricity had improved, the results showed.
Households that have flush toilets connected to the sewerage system increased "persistently" to 57% in 2011 from 50% recorded in Census 2001.
Households with no toilets also declined significantly from the 13.3% in 2001 to the 5.2% in 2011.
The results show a significant increase in the proportion of households which have access to piped water, with the percentage increasing from 60.7% according to Census 1996 to 62.3 % in 2001 and 73.4% in 2011.
With regards to electricity, households that used electricity for lighting increased from 70.2% in 2001 to 84.7% in 2011, while households that used electricity for cooking increased from 52.2% to 73.9% over the same period.
Households that used electricity for heating had increased from 49.9% in 2001 to 58.8% in 2011.
"When we live in a country where the lack of service delivery makes [headlines] so often, what we see in the Census about service delivery, in a way, is quite a remarkable story," Gabriels said.
The rate of growth in some provinces was also unexpected, he added. "The surprising factor of the Census is the rate of growth of Gauteng compared to 2001. We were a little bit surprised it's grown so fast and likewise the rate of growth in the Western Cape," Gabriels said.
The percentage distribution of population in Gauteng grew from 20.9% in 2001 to 23.7% in 2011, while in the Western Cape it increased from 10.1% to 11.3%.
Over the past few years, the provincial distribution of the population was estimated to be lower in both provinces, he added.
Minister in the Presidency for National Planning Trevor Manuel said one of the "stark" findings of Census 2011 was income distribution in respect of race and gender.
The results showed that the average female-headed household had an annual income of R67 330 in 2011, just more than half of their male counterparts who had an income of at least R128 329.
There were also significant differences in the average annual income across population groups. Black African-headed households were found to have an average annual income of R60 613 in 2011, and coloured-headed households R112 172.
The figure stood at R251 541 for Indian/Asian- headed households, with white-headed household having the highest average household income of R365 134 a year.
"It confirms our worst fears and presents us with an enormous challenge in that now that we know, how do we take this issue and manage it," Manuel said of these figures.
Statistician-General Pali Lehohla, meanwhile, said the R3.4 billion cost of Census 2011 was a worthwhile cost.
"It was money well spent," he pointed out.