The latest household statistics and more

Service delivery protests in South Africa have become a widespread occurrence in recent years. Residents take to the streets in protest against poor services received in their communities, hoping that their voices will be heard and their problems fixed. Communities are raising their voices about issues such as access to electricity, housing, water and sanitation, health, and social security.

Statistics South Africa recently released the General Household Survey report for 2017, which covers all these and other issues that communities face. Let’s have a look at a few of these issues and what the new report reveals.


Slightly over four-fifths (80,1%) of South African households lived in formal dwellings in 2017, followed by 13,6% in informal dwellings, and 5,5% in traditional dwellings. The highest percentage of households that lived in formal dwellings was observed in Limpopo at 91,7%, while the lowest was the Eastern Cape at 70,4%. Approximately one-fifth of households lived in informal dwellings in North West (19,9%) and Gauteng (19,8%).

At the time of the survey, 13,6% of South African households were living in RDP or state-subsidised dwellings. Some residents raised concerns about the quality of subsidised houses, and 10,2% said that the walls were weak or very weak while 9,9% regarded the roofs of their dwellings as weak or very weak.


The percentage of households connected to an electricity supply from the mains has increased from 76,7% in 2002 to 84,4% in 2017. The percentage of households that used electricity for cooking increased from 57,5% in 2002 to 75,9% in 2017.

Water access and use

Although 88,6% of South African households had access to piped water in 2017, only 74,2% of households in Eastern Cape, and 74,7% of households in Limpopo enjoyed such access. This situation does, however, represent a substantial improvement from that of 2002, when only 56,1% of households in Eastern Cape had access to piped water.

Nationally, 63,9% of households rated the quality of water-related services they received as good. Satisfaction has, however, been eroding steadily since 2005, when 76,4% of users rated the services as good. Although household access to water is improving generally, 3,7% of households still had to fetch water from rivers, streams, stagnant water pools and dams, wells and springs in 2017.


Through the provision and the efforts of government, support agencies and existing stakeholders, an additional 20,5% of households in South Africa have access to improved sanitation since 2012. Nationally, the percentage of households without sanitation, or who used the bucket toilet system decreased from 12,6% to 3,1% between 2002 and 2017. Provinces with the lowest access to improved sanitation were Mpumalanga at 67,6% and Limpopo at 58,9%.

Safety is still a concern for households with shared sanitation sites, as almost one-quarter or 23,7% of households expressed concern about poor lighting and 16,3% about inadequate physical safety.


About seven in every ten households reported that they made use of public clinics, hospitals or other public institutions as their first point of access when household members fell ill or got injured. By comparison, a little more than a quarter (27,4%) of households indicated that they would go to private doctors, private clinics or hospitals. Nearly a quarter (23,3%) of South African households had at least one member who belonged to a medical aid scheme. However, a relatively small percentage of individuals in South Africa (16,9%) belonged to a medical aid scheme in 2017.

The latest GHS report also provides information regarding education, refuse removal, social security, telecommunications, agriculture, household assets and income sources, access to food, disability, and transport. For the full report, click here.