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Poor black rural child. Stock photo from Pixabay

Destitute children: The terrible legacy of South Africa’s black rule

More than six out of ten children are identified as multidimensionally poor, according to a report on Child Poverty in South Africa released by Statistics South Africa. The report gives an in-depth analysis of the Living Conditions Survey that was conducted in 2015.

Published: February 6, 2021, 10:51 am

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    In 2015, the South African population was estimated at 55 million people, of which 19,7 million were children aged less than 18 years (0–17). According to a new report released by Statistics South Africa, Child poverty in South Africa: A Multiple Overlapping Deprivation Analysis, more than 6 out of 10 (62,1 percent) children aged 0–17 years were multidimensionally poor.

    Children experience poverty very differently from adults because they have to depend on others to meet their needs. They rarely have control over household finances and they usually do not have the power to make decisions for their day-to-day lives. As such, child poverty needs to be measured differently from the rest of the population.

    The monetary approach to poverty has traditionally been used to identify poor children. A child is identified as poor if he/she lives in a household whose income or expenditure is below a given poverty line. Even when a household has an adequate level of income they may not necessarily redistribute the resources appropriately within the household according to the specific needs of each of its members. Since children are not the decision-makers in the household, this is of significant importance.

    While money is only one dimension of poverty, especially for children, what is multidimensional child poverty? A child is said to be multidimensionally poor when they are living in households where they are deprived of at least three out of seven dimensions of poverty (Health, Housing, Nutrition, Protection, Education, Information, Water and Sanitation).

    Higher levels of multidimensional child poverty were found in provinces that are predominantly black rural areas, i.e. Limpopo (82,8 percent), Eastern Cape (78,7 percent) and KwaZulu-Natal (75,8 percent) compared to rates in provinces that are predominantly urban, i.e. Gauteng (33,6 percent) and Western Cape (37,1 percent). Gauteng, Western Cape, Northern Cape and Free State had multidimensional poverty rates lower than the national average of 62,1 percent. Similarly, multidimensional child poverty rates were higher in non-metropolitan areas compared to metropolitan areas. The rate of multidimensional child poverty in non-metropolitan (73,7 percent) areas was almost double that of metropolitan areas (39,6 percent) in 2015.

    Black African children were more likely to be in multidimensional poverty compared to children of other population groups. There was a difference of about 57 percentage points between the multidimensional poverty rate of black African children (68,3 percent) and that of white children (11,5 percent). Indian/Asian and coloured children, respectively had 16,8 percent and 37,9 percent multidimensional child poverty rates.

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