Research finds that SA childbirth decline is linked to economic conditions

A man lays his hands on his pregnant wife’s stomach.

Picture: Brandon Ricketts/Pexels

Published Mar 10, 2024


The high cost of living, spiralling unemployment and poor economic conditions are contributing to a decline in childbirth in South Africa.

Research firm Eighty20 said the most recent census indicated that South Africa’s fertility rate dropped in the last 10 years. It attributed the decline to the deteriorating economic conditions in the country.

Eighty20 director, Andrew Fulton, said with the uncertain job market it was not easy to take care of a baby.

“The cost of living is high for the middle income sector and the poor. Our research shows that two thirds of women that have children in South Africa under the age of 2 are single mothers, and this is also the reason why the fertility rate has dropped.”

Fulton added that the research indicated that 21% of children under the age of 17 did not live with their parents.

“They live with other family members; this can be attributed to the high cost of living.

“We do have a declining birth rate, as the 0-4 years old population is shrinking while the 60 years and older population is the fastest growing age group in South Africa.”

Fulton said South Africa was not creating enough jobs for people that come out of schools and universities.

He said 40% of babies were born into households that earned less than R5 000 a month, making it difficult for parents to survive in the tough economic conditions.

Dick Forslund, from the Alternative Information and Development Centre, said a lower fertility rate did not bode well for the future and the economy of South Africa.

“It is one of the many short-term consequences of budget austerity that have consequences. In the long run fewer children make families and the country poorer.”

Economist Dawie Roodt said the birth rate decline was in line with the global trend as other countries in the world were also showing a decline in birth rates.

“It isn’t peculiar to South Africa, as what I have picked up in other countries globally is that as they become wealthier, at a certain point the fertility rate seems to drop.

“This might not necessarily be the same case in South Africa as our economic climate is not the same but I have picked up a decline in the fertility rate in Southern Africa.

“In the next 10 years I do believe that the South African population will go into decline and it could possibly be linked to our economic activity.”

Professor Irrshad Kaseeram, from the University of Zululand’s Economics Department, said the number of black South Africans in the middle-class category could be anywhere between the 8% and 27% category, while the lower middle class constitute a further 17%.

“The general consensus is that 3.4.million black Africans earn a salary in excess of R25 000, that’s about 5% of the population.

“Hence about 44% of the black population have middle-class aspirations, which means they are aware of the cost of a good quality of life for their children and have ambitious goals for themselves to ascend the class ladder, which means that they will thus follow global middle-class oriented trends and reduce the number of children they have,” said Kaseeram.

The Mercury

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