Key Points:

  • This occasional paper was written by Charles Simkins, Helen Suzman Professor of Political Economy at the University of the Witwatersrand and a senior consultant to CDE.
  • In it he examines South Africa’s paradoxical human capital future. Demographic trends were poised to deliver to the country the transition from waste to efficiency that has preceded rapid economic growth phases in all developed countries.
  • Across this has come the jagged tear of AIDS mortality. It has the potential to reverse the positive human capital developments of the four decades since 1960. This article assesses the balance between progress and setback to 2010.
  • Since the 18th century every developed society has undergone the same major demographic transition.
  • At a certain period in a country’s development – when mortality has dropped and children no longer play a role in production – members of the society realise that their future can be secured more effectively by means other than producing numerous children.
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