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2012 Census Thematic Report on Population Projections

The Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (ZimStat) with support from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has launched the key findings from three thematic reports produced from the Zimbabwe 2012 Census. The thematic report focusing on Population Projections provides a detailed analysis of data collected during the 2012 Census Report. The results of the 2012 Census were released in December 2013. The launch of this thematic report is the last specific objective of the 2012 Population Census of producing national population projections to enhance future planning. Statistics are a vital tool for economic and social development and reliable and timely data can help Zimbabwe in the formulation of development policies and programmes.

Population projections are a critical step for incorporating population concerns into comprehensive national planning strategies. This Population Projections Thematic Report, which is the first such comprehensive report on this theme and one of the several thematic reports to be produced by the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency based on the final results of the 2012 Population census, seeks to provide policy makers, planners, decision makers and development partners with reliable data on population dynamics in the two decades 2012-2032. More specifically, the thematic report seeks to project the size and age-sex structure of Zimbabwe‟s population as well as the number and future trends of households.
 
The report discusses the different types and methods (including those actually used) of projections as well as their limitations; levels and trends in the components of population change (fertility, mortality and migration); and source data and assumptions for the projections. The report then presents in detail the main results of the projections and discusses their policy implications.
 
On levels and trends, the report shows that Zimbabwe‟s population has almost doubled in three decades, from 7.5 million in 1982 to 13.1 million in 2012; fertility has steadily been declining since 1982 until about 2005 after which it began to rise; and that mortality in childhood has been fairly stable for most of the period 1997-2008 after which it markedly increased. Under-five mortality has been declining in Zimbabwe during the past three decades while life expectancy at birth has steadily been increasing since 1960 until about 1987 when it reached a peak of 61 years after which it gradually declined to a low of 43 years in 2002 before steadily increasing thereafter to a peak of 58 years in 2012. 
 
The benchmark data for the projections is the 2012 Zimbabwe Population Census. Based on the levels and trends of the components of population change, the projections assume that Zimbabwe‟s total fertility rate will decrease from 3.7 children per woman in 2012 to 2.7 in 2032, partly a result of national policy which includes promotion of responsible parenthood awareness, availability of community health services, increase in contraceptive prevalence rate and girl-child school attendance; life expectancy at birth will increase from 57.4 to 67.4 for males and from 64.0 to 75.2 for females due to a number of coordinated socio-economic and health care interventions, involving scaling up of early infant diagnosis and access to paediatric ARV treatment; net international migration will be zero due to paucity of data; the sex ratio at birth of 99 males per 100 females estimated at the 2012 population census will hold throughout the projection period.
 
Population projections are computed without absolute certainty. Hence, the need to adopt different scenarios (high, medium and low) representing respective population component assumptions. The medium scenario is the most probable and unless otherwise specified, it is the scenario which is utilised for projections comparative purposes in this report. 
 
Using the cohort component method, the report finds that Zimbabwe‟s population is projected to grow from 13.1 million in 2012 to 19.3 million in 2032 in the medium scenario. This gives a higher average annual population growth rate (2.0 percent) during the projection period than during the past 20 years (1.1 percent). This is due to steadily rising life expectancy at birth, itself a result of reduced AIDS-related deaths, expanding educational levels, rising incomes, urbanisation and improved public health systems. The age-sex structure of Zimbabwe‟s population is projected to significantly change over the projection period, with the proportion of the working age population (15-64) projected to rise from 55 percent in 2012 to 64 percent in 2032 while that of persons below 15 years is projected to decline from 41 percent in 2012 to 32 percent in 2032. The proportion of older persons (65 years and above) remains static at 4 percent. Correspondingly, the age dependency ratio will decline from 83 dependents per 100 working age population in 2012 to 57 dependents per 100 working age population. Zimbabwe‟s urban population is projected to grow from 4.3 million in 2012 to 6.5 million in 2032 while its rural population is projected to grow from 8.8 million in 2012 to 13.7 million in 2032. However, the proportion of the population living in urban areas is projected to remain stagnant at 33 percent through-out the projection period. 
 
Using the headship rate method, the total number of households is projected to grow from 3.1 million in 2012 to 5.7 million in 2032, which gives an average annual growth rate of 4.2 percent per annum during the projection period. The average household size, that is, the average number of persons per household, is projected to gradually decline from 4.3 in 2012 to 3.4 in 2032. 
 
A growing population with an increasing number of households will inevitably exert pressure on land, housing, schooling and health services, food security, greenhouse emissions and energy needs. Government is expected to enact skills development and labour force retention strategies. Policy makers will need to address the socio-economic needs of the young and elderly, as well as the health sector imperatives, to meet the primary targets of the post 2015 development agenda. These projection results show that Zimbabwe is in a demographic transition and that it stands at the threshold of entering the demographic dividend that can be harnessed in the coming 20 years. 
 
Key determinants of population change will continue to be mortality and fertility levels, whilst international migration will play an insignificant role. The successful post-independence health policies, programmes and investments in maternal and child health and family planning and the successful post-independence education policies and programmes, which have seen the country achieving the highest literacy rate in Africa, are key contributors to the opportunity of the demographic dividend arising today. The benefit of demographic dividend has proven to be the key facilitating factor to the economic miracles in South East Asia in the 1990s.
 
However, Zimbabwe runs the risk of losing the demographic dividend in the absence of leadership to manage its demographic transition. Despite its achievements in education and health, Zimbabwe faces challenges which include, among others, high rates of early marriage, high rates of teenage pregnancy, high maternal mortality especially among young girls, increase in school drop-outs at secondary level and most significantly, lack of employment opportunities especially among the urban youths. 
 
Failure to manage the demographic transition will guarantee lags in economic growth as well as increase the risk of social and political turbulence. To avoid such a scenario from happening, it will be critical for the Government of Zimbabwe to ensure that issues related to achieving the demographic dividend remain central to the post-2015 development agenda.