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Fertility in South Africa: Current Issues and Prospects for the Future

Publication Abstract

Download PDF versionAnderson, Barbara A. 2003. "Fertility in South Africa: Current Issues and Prospects for the Future." PSC Research Report No. 03-532. February 2003.

This paper addresses fertility trends and desires, infant and child survival, and orphanhood and fosterage of children in South Africa. It concludes with observations and recommendations in these areas. Fertility in South Africa has declined rapidly, especially since the late 1960s. The pace of this decline is in line with that of the less developed regions of the world, but is very rapid in comparison with sub-Saharan Africa as a whole. HIV/AIDS seemingly leads to at most a 10% reduction in fertility. Current low fertility mainly reflects the desires of women. South Africa had a low infant mortality rate in comparison with less developed world regions up to the 1970s, but the pace of infant mortality decline in South Africa has been slow compared to the rest of the developing world and rural Africans have especially high infant mortality. Since 1994 some factors related to infant death for rural African children have improved (safe drinking water), but other factors have remained virtually unchanged (sanitation). Although no evidence indicates that the proportion of children who are orphans has increased substantially up to 1998, the proportion of children who are fostered increased substantially in the 1990s, especially among Africans. This increase was especially pronounced among children whose mothers were ill. If many of these ill women had HIV/AIDS, the increase in fosterage could presage a large increase in the percentage of children who are orphans.

To address these issues, data should be regularly collected to trace trends in fertility and infant and child welfare, and in the factors related to these trends. Current research indicates the importance of improving environmental conditions, addressing the effects of smoking and alcohol consumption by women, and improving the welfare of children with ill mothers and those that are orphaned.

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