Pretoria – The widespread notion that young women in South Africa fall pregnant in a bid to cash in on the government-offered child support grant money is baseless and incorrect, Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) revealed on Monday.
"There is a notion that the grants influence young kids, young girls to produce children ... the evidence before us over a period from 1998 to 2016 doesn't show that. It doesn't show any increase in the proportion of teenagers who are giving birth, therefore dismissing and dispensing with that myth which is popular [among] parents especially in rural areas."
Statistician-General Pali Lehohla said while addressing media in Pretoria at the release of the SA Demographic and Health Survey 2016 (SADHS2016).
"So there are signs which show is that it is not so."
Lehohla said, on the basis of evidence, teenage pregnancy in South Africa is not rising but has remained stable.
"In fact, among the 19-year-olds, it has declined from 35 percent to 28 percent. Teenage pregnancy is not increasing and therefore nothing can therefore be attributed to the grants," he said.
"We want to dismiss that myth, however passionately it might be driven on fake facts. It doesn't exist."
The survey also found that the adolescent fertility rate in South Africa has declined from 76 in 1998 to 71 births per 1 000 girls aged 15 to 19 in the SADHS2016.
Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said the Stats SA findings augment existing facts on the perceived link between social grants money and teenage pregnancy.
"It has been [previously] discovered that an overwhelming majority of young girls only go to register for social grants two years after a child is born. If surely they were falling pregnant because they target the social grants, why wait for two years? They would rush straight to home affairs department with a baby, the moment they leave the hospital. It was found that more than 80 percent of the teenagers who fall pregnant only claim child support after two years," said Motsoaledi.
He questioned how proponents of the link between child support grants and teenage pregnancy would justify teens from fellow African countries where there are no social grant facilities fall pregnant.
"At one point a minister from another African country told me that in their country it is one in every three school girls falls pregnant but there is no child support grant in that country. And I'm quite sure that child support grants on the whole continent exists in South Africa. Why do teenagers elsewhere in the continent also have a similar problem? There is ample evidence that child support grants have not increased teenage pregnancy, and we are very happy that Stats SA has added to what we already knew," said Motsoaledi.
According to the Stats SA survey, South Africa is approaching a "demographic winter", wherein women are giving birth to fewer and fewer children.
"In the last three years, on average, the number of children ever born per woman was 2.6 compared to an average of 2.9 over a three year period ending in 1998. As of 2016, the average for the year was at 2.4 children per woman and this is 0.2 children lower than the three year average based on the Community Survey of 2016," according to the latest survey.
The South African Demographic and Health Survey is a sample survey that was conducted by Stats SA and the South African Medical Research Council on behalf of the National Department of Health.
The survey collected data from sampled households in the country between June and November 2016, with variables measuring health, fertility, nutrition and family planning, among others.
The results of the survey will be used to measure the health status of South Africans as well as the coverage and quality of selected health programmes.
The survey also provides estimates on child and maternal mortality, fertility rates, and the prevalence of conditions such as diabetes and hypertension, among others.