Review of Research Evidence on Child Poverty in South Africa
This review presents research evidence on child poverty in South Africa. It includes discussions on key concepts used in child poverty research, quantitative studies about child poverty in South Africa, and some of the keys issues around children and inequality. It also highlights some of the key studies that have focused on the Child Support Grant, an important poverty alleviation tool. The Review was prepared by the Southern Africa Social Policy Research Institute and the Children’s Institute, with funding support from the Programme to Support Pro‐Poor Policy Development (PSPPD), based in the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation in the Presidency.
Some of the key findings from the review include:
- Child poverty is multi‐faceted and is not only about a lack of income, but also what this means for children’s lives. However, lack of income and adult employment are key factors in deprivation experienced by children.
- There are high rates of child poverty, although the extent depends on the measure used.
- Child poverty rates appear to be decreasing over time, but even so, there are large numbers of children in poverty.
- Child poverty is spatially and racially distributed. On the majority of measures, child poverty is highest in rural and former homeland areas, and for black African children.
- Children experience poverty in a range of ways. Frequently mentioned is the issue of threats to personal safety, both in the home and in the community. Whether or not children personally experience violence or abuse, anxiety about it is an important feature of childhood experience in the context of poverty.
- Children (and older children in particular) understand the causes of poverty to be historically rooted, and perpetuated through virtuous circles of poor education and poor employment opportunities. There is a strong belief that persisting at school and getting a good education will increase chances of employment and transition out of poverty.
- Children are acutely aware of poverty, and of the cost of things. At its extreme, children’s sense of responsibility to the household takes the form of voluntary decisions to enter labour and generate income, even if this is illegal.
- Poverty alleviation programmes can be well conceptualised but difficult to access because of implementation problems, highlighting the need for attention to service delivery.
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