Urbanization, ageing and migration: some evidence from African settlements in Cape Town

  • A. Sagner Institute of Ethnology and African Studies, Ludwig Maximilians University, Munich, Germany


This paper is based on secondary analysis of data obtained from the 1995 Western Cape Community Housing Trust study on the demographic and socio-economic dynamics of the African population in the Metropolitan Cape Town area (WCCHT, 1995). The sample consisted of 807 households, of which 113 sheltered at least one person aged 60 years and over (elderly households). Statistical information on household composition, housing and infrastructure, standard of living items, household economy, migration and mobility, community integration and perceived quality of life are drawn together for elderly and young households. A comparison of their profiles shows that elderly households in the metropolitan area tend to be larger, more prone to the exigencies of unemployment, and more likely to be sheltered. In formal houses and the established townships of Langa, Guguletu and Nyanga than young households. This geographical distribution coincides with better housing infrastructure and more consumer durables. Nevertheless, in terms of income elder households tend to be significantly poorer than their younger counterparts. The WCCHT data indicate that social pensioners in urban areas - as with their rural counterparts - act as magnets for economically weaker persons and that pensions are thus important redistributive mechanisms which enable the survival of structurally vulnerable families in urban settings. Contrary to common belief, older citizens have participated in the recent mobility upsurge, albeit on a somewhat smaller scale. This holds good for intra-urban as well as for rural-urban/urban-rural movements. It appears that elderly urban households are often part of an integrated urban/rural nexus. Considering the policy relevance of this finding and the paucity of knowledge about later-life migration, further quantitative and qualitative studies are called for.


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