FILE - In this Aug. 1, 2016 file photo, Jaden Smith, left, and his father Will Smith attend the world premiere of "Suicide Squad" in New York.Many working-class fathers were once separated from their family homes to become migrant workers, today they are part of the household. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)
JOHANNESBURG - Today's South African dad is different from dads of the past. Better educated and with more earning power than his grandfather or even his father, he is carving out a new social standing and position in the family.

Where many working-class fathers were once separated from their family homes to become migrant workers to provide for the family, today they are part of the household. These dads are establishing a place for themselves in the home as providers, home builders, role models and heads of the household.

Brands should establish themselves as dad friendly, especially as we can expect to see dads have more sway over purchase decisions that they may once have left in the hands of their wives or partners.

But a young South African dad’s life is by no means all housework and no play. This group is trendy, loves cool clothes and gadgets, and spends as much time clubbing as single men. Contrary to global trends, even Gen Y South African dads aren’t taking on more household chores than earlier generations.

Below are some revealing facts about our country’s fathers from GFK Consumer Life*, an annual longitudinal survey based on face-to-face interviews.

South African fathers love technology and convenience. The new generation of dads are finding smart solutions through digital technology, a trend that will increase as more members of Generation Z become fathers. Nearly 30percent of Generation Y dads report they have bought groceries online, as have a quarter of Generation X dads.

Nearly half (46percent) of all dads in the survey are passionate about technology. They are also early adopters, with 31percent reporting that they have used a virtual assistant such as Amazon Alexa, Apple Siri, Google Assistant or Microsoft Cortana, and 41percent saying they have made mobile payments with solutions like Apple Pay and Samsung Pay.

They still don’t do as much in the kitchen as their spouses and partners.

Generation X and Y men spend an average of around 3.7 hours a week cooking, compared to 6.4 hours for Generation Y women and nearly 6.5 for Generation X women.

Young fathers are mindful of their responsibility to protect the family and improve its financial future. More than half (51percent) of Generation Y men have life insurance and nearly half (48percent) have private health insurance. More than half of Generation X men have life insurance (56percent) and private health insurance (54percent).

South African fathers are open to guidance and advice about which products and brands to buy.

Around 43percent of Generation Y men are interested in other people’s opinions about what to buy - compared to 37percent of all South African respondents and 35percent of the men.

Expect these trends to accelerate as the next generation of dads focus on protecting and providing for the extended family on one hand and enjoying themselves on the other. Their evolving roles in the home and in society will challenge brands to adapt to changes in male consumers’ behaviour and values, the touchpoints they use to interact with brands, and in choosing household products.

Rachel Thompson is the insights director at GfK South Africa.

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