By Tarma Khan
There is absolutely no evidence that young women are deliberately falling pregnant in order to access the child support grant, Statistician-General, Pali Lehohla, said on Monday, 15 May 2017, as he released the findings of the South Africa Demographic and Health Survey (SADHS) 2016.
The study found that the teenage pregnancy rate had remained virtually the same between 1998 and 2016 at 71 per 1 000 women. "There is a notion that grants influence young girls to produce children, but the evidence before us is that isn’t true. The data dispense with that myth," said Lehohla. The child support grant was introduced in 1998, and currently stands at R380 a month. Children are the primary beneficiaries of the government’s welfare grant system, and are expected to amount to 12.82-million of the 18.06-million beneficiaries by the 2019-20 fiscal year.
Health Minister, Aaron Motsoaledi, said the survey’s findings on teenage pregnancy added to research commissioned by former Social Development Minister, Zola Skweyiya, which found that the overwhelming majority of teenage mothers registered their children for grants only after they turned two.
Teenage pregnancy is a concern because children born to very young mothers were at higher risk of illness and death, said Statistics South Africa. Teenage mothers are also more likely to have complications in pregnancy and fail to finish school. The survey found that about 16% of women aged between 15 and 19 had begun childbearing.
The survey is based on interviews with about 13 000 households, and is the third such survey conducted in South Africa (SA): the previous two were carried out in 1998 and 2003.
The survey found that SA’s fertility rate had steadily declined over the past two decades, from an average of 2.9 live births for every woman aged between 15 and 44 in 1998 to 2.6 in 2016. It also highlighted the challenge that SA faces in tackling its HIV epidemic, finding that two out of five women (42 percent) and one in three men (35 percent) who had multiple sexual partners had said that they had not used a condom the last time they had sex.
Motsoaledi said that the government was aware that condom use was not as high as it should be and had improved its HIV prevention strategies, detailed in its latest National Strategic Plan for HIV, STIs and TB. It had also launched a R3 billion programme targeting girls and young women at high risk of HIV, called ‘She Conquers"’ in 2016.
For access to the SADHS 2016 Key Indicator Report, refer to www.mrc.ac.za/bod/SADHS2016.pdf.