This work aimed to increase knowledge about child poverty dynamics in South Africa through data analysis to inform and evaluate pro-poor policy from the perspective of children, and child outcomes. It was an extension project to the Children Count – Abantwana Babalulekile project and part of an initiative of the Programme to Support Pro-Poor Policy Development, a partnership of the Presidency and the European Union, to support poverty-related research that could contribute to evidence for policy development.

Pro-poor policy and service provision in South Africa would benefit from an evidence base that attends to children in a more robust and focused way. While national survey data are extremely useful for monitoring progress in achieving policy targets, children tend to get ‘lost’ in generic reporting on the socio-economic situation of the population. This means national household and even individual level statistics mask the disproportionately poor conditions in which children live.

Child poverty has also been under-researched and inadequately understood in South Africa. Therefore, the purpose of the project was to build an understanding of the dynamics of child poverty through data analysis and dissemination, and in particular:

  • to highlight the situation of children, and draw attention to the multiple forms and relative severity of child poverty in South Africa;
  • to build interest and capacity for child-centred analysis among emerging researchers; and
  • ultimately, to promote and inform evidence-based pro-poor policy that takes children into account.

To build an understanding of the dynamics of child poverty, a multi-dimensional set of child-centred indictors on child poverty was built and updated by drawing on the work of the Children Count – Abantwana Babalulekile project, an ongoing child indicator project which reports on children’s socio-economic situation. Large national data sets that lend themselves to child-centred analysis and monitoring were used, such as the General Household Survey (GHS) and National Income Dynamics Study (NIDS).

In 2011, interest in and capacity for analysis of child poverty dynamics were promoted by an internship programme for students of various disciplines.

Other exploratory and inferential analyses that provided insight into the effects of policy and programme access amongst children were:

  • A comparative analysis of data on child poverty, comparing the results of large household surveys conducted by Statistics South Africa with the first wave of data from the NIDS. This was necessary to establish the plausibility of the NIDS baseline for longitudinal analysis of child poverty.
  • Research on children’s care arrangements and geographic mobility in relation to their mothers, using NIDS and other datasets. 
  • Research on social grants in the context of orphaning, using NIDS, the GHS and administrative data extracted from the social pensions database of the South African Social Security.

To contribute to the dissemination of evidence generated, the Children’s Institute collaborated with the Programme to Support Pro-Poor Policy Development (PSPPD) to convene two roundtables in 2011, focusing respectively on child poverty, and on children and inequality.

Presentations were also made at various PSPPD events and the findings of the research on orphaning, foster care and social grants were presented to government departments and agencies, and committees in Parliament.

This project was supported in 2010 and 2011 by the Programme to Support Pro-Poor Policy Development, a partnership programme of the Presidency, Republic of South Africa, and the Delegation of the European Union.

Project team: Katharine Hall




Links and publications

Children Count – Abantwana Babalulekile web page