Zimbabwe’s population is projected to hit 21.4 million by 2032 from 13.4 million in 2012 as the country undergoes demographic changes that if government takes advantage of, could be beneficial to economic growth and development, a new report released on Thursday shows.
According to the “Updated 2012 Population Census Projections Report” produced by the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (ZimStat) with support of the United Nations Population Fund, the country’s population is growing at an estimated annual rate of 2.35 percent.
At the current growth rate, it is approximated it will take 29.4 years (from 2012) for the country’s population to double.
Key to the population growth is the rise in the number of people in the productive age group of 15 to 64 years, which is expected to jump to 58.5 percent of the overall population by 2032 from 53.7 percent in 2012.
“The above population trends could be extremely beneficial to economic growth and development. When the ratio between the dependent and the working age population decreases, new economic and social opportunities arise,” reads the report.
“The demographic window by itself cannot guarantee development and economic growth.”
Key to enjoying these benefits is strategic formulation and implementation of policies that create opportunities in the labour market.
With Zimbabwe going through economic challenges fueled by among others Western sanctions, corruption and other ills, opportunities in the labour market remain largely scarce.
Failure to take advantage of the demographic dividend, warns the report, posed a threat to social stability.
“On the contrary, if the economic and social environment are unfavourable, the economy cannot absorb the working age population, and the large population of young adults may become a load to the country and may result in social turbulence and civil unrest,” read the report.
In terms of life expectancy, it is anticipated that there would be improvement of about nine years in the period people were expected to live until they died during the 20-year period from 2012 to 2032.
Zimbabwean women are estimated to outlive men by seven years as life expectancy for men is projected to jump from 57.82 years in 2012 to 67.12 years by 2032 while that for women will be 74.19 years, up from 65.09 seven years ago.
Over the period, the country’s fertility rate, the average number of children expected to be born by a woman during child bearing age, is expected to marginally decline from 4.33 in 2012 to 3.06 by 2032.
According to the report, the country’s population is estimated to have grown to 15 761 374 this year from 13.4 million in 2012, and will be around 17 million when the next census is carried out in 2022.
ZimStat director general, Taguma Mahonde said the “Updated 2012 Population Census Projections Report” was produced using data collected from the 2017 inter-central demographic survey, using the 2012 census as the base year.
“In preparing the projections report, ZimStat seeks to put at the disposal of planners, decision makers, and development partners reliable data,” he said.
UNFPA Country Representative, Dr. Esther Muia said provision of accurate statistics was a “vital tool for economic and social development planning.”
“As equally important as the provision of data, is its utilization – the ultimate success of any information system should be measured by informed decisions, which lead to action and positive change in the system rather than the quantity or quality of data produced,” she said.
“Our challenge is to promote a culture of data utilization by making information more relevant for action.”
Dr Muia said it was imperative the findings of the report be used to implement policies “to reduce poverty, harness the demographic dividend and ensure that every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe, every young person is free of HIV and every girl and woman is treated with dignity and respect.”
The Updated 2012 Population Projections Report, she said, was also key in preparation of other of important national development processes which are already underway such as the first Sustainable Development Goals progress report for the country, evaluation of the Zimbabwe United Nations Development Assistance Framework and preparation of its successor.