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A study has shown that migration from rural Mpumalanga has resulted in many families becoming dependent on state grants.
The movement has also left children without supervision.
The study, commissioned by the Mpumalanga Department of Social Development and done by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), was conducted in Lupisi, Kabokweni, Verena, Kwa-Mhlanga, Ermelo and Nyibe.
The study found that migration led to reduced numbers of people of working age in family structures. This affected children and the elderly, whose welfare depends on those of working age.
Social grants were the only way of survival for many old people, who used the money to support their children and grandchildren.
The study was conducted between August last year and last May.
The principal investigator of the study, Dr Monde Makiwane, said its purpose had been to research the situation of families in Mpumalanga.
Makiwane said that the study had also determined the socio-economic welfare of different groups including those of children, the elderly, men, women and the youth.
The study found the absence of parents was indirectly linked to teenage pregnancy, because children with no parents tended to be unsupervised.
“The common perception is that migration provides opportunities for employment, but it also contributes to the vulnerability of the family members by affecting the integrity of marriage and exposing children to neglect.”
The study found that the family structure was changing constantly.
Multi-generational families – a family consisting of grandchildren, parents and grandparents – as well as extended families were common among people of lower economic status in Mpumalanga.
Nuclear families and intimate couples emerged as the primary family unit among those of higher socio-economic status.
The scourge of HIV/Aids meant that child-headed homes were also becoming common.
Most families that were headed by children had no access to social assistance, and the resources available to them were inadequate.
The study found that in the areas surveyed, marriage rates were exceptionally low and that almost half the population was single and had never been married.
Divorce and the dissolution of marriage was less common.
Many children were born out of wedlock and ended up living with their mothers.
Many women were forced to play both father and mother in their families and, unlike men, tended to send money to their parents if they were working far from home.
Some households were found to be under stress due to illness among adults, mainly of parents of under-age children.
They also had to cope with teenage pregnancy, substance abuse and families that were widely dispersed because of migration.