Are 57% of South African kids raised without fathers?

Comments 4


57% of South African kids are raised without fathers

Source: Advert for Omo detergent (June 2018)



Explainer: Data only counts fathers who don’t live with their children

  • Washing powder brand claimed 57% of South African kids were raised without fathers.
  • Stat came from old data which measured whether biological fathers spend at least four nights a week in the same household as their children.
  • Latest data puts the figure of absent fathers, including those who have died, above 60%.

In its latest advertising campaign, detergent brand Omo features a young boy reading from a homemade Father’s Day card.

“Thank you for always being there for me,” the boy reads, sitting on a coffee table. “You taught me how to build a fire, to tie a tie and hammer a hammer.”

The camera then cuts to the person receiving the card. “Gogo, you are my hero!” the boy says, hugging his smiling grandmother.

The ad opened with a stark statistic: “57% of SA kids are raised without fathers”. A reader flagged it for fact-checking.

Figure sourced from mentorship programme

The statistic was from an infographic by the African Youth Mentorship Network, Henry Muchauraya, the marketing manager for Unilever’s laundry division, told Africa Check. Unilever owns the Omo brand.

The infographic is part of the network’s “Become” campaign, which pairs young boys with mentors for six years to help them “become better men in their societies”.

“Did you know? 57% of South African fathers to children aged 15 years or younger are absent from their lives,” their infographic states. It cites Statistics South Africa’s 2002 General Household Survey as its source.

The figure was calculated from the share of children whose fathers were dead (11.2%) and those whose biological fathers were alive, but absent from the household (45.7%).

More recent estimates are higher

Stats SA conducts its General Household Survey every year, so much more recent data is available.

To be considered a resident of a household, a biological father needs to spend “at least four nights on average per week, for four weeks” living there, Stats SA’s deputy director for service delivery statistics, Casment Mahlwele, told Africa Check.

In South Africa’s Children’s Act, a child means a “person under the age of 18 years”.

The 2017 survey found the biological father of 61.8% of children younger than 18 were absent from the household. This is similar to 2016’s figure of 62.2%.

Stats SA’s much larger 2016 Community Survey of 1.3 million households estimated a higher figure of 64.1%. It was made up of 8.7% of children younger than 18 whose father had died and 55.4% whose biological father was alive but didn’t live with them.

Children under 18 with fathers absent from the house
General Household Survey 2017 General Household Survey 2016 Community Survey 2016
Father deceased 10.1% 10.7% 8.7%
Father alive, but not living with child 51.7% 51.5% 55.4%
Total 61.8% 62.2% 64.1%

Source: Stats SA General Household Survey 2016, 2017; Community Survey 2016.

Men fulfilling caregiving function not counted as father

This indicator doesn’t tell us whether biological fathers are involved in raising their children, though.

“The fact that a biological father does not live with a child does not mean that the father is not involved in the child’s life, nor does living with a child mean involvement either,” Wessel van den Berg told Africa Check.

Van den Berg manages the Children’s Rights and Positive Parenting unit at Sonke Gender Justice, a South African nongovernmental organisation that works to promote the equitable treatment of men, women and children.

“Additionally, a child may live with a man who fulfils a caregiving function, and who is not their biological father,” Van den Berg added. “This man will not be counted as a father in current household surveys.”

More than this, fathers who only come home on weekends are not considered household members because of how Stats SA defines residency.

“A person or father coming only on weekends will not be counted as part of the household as we run the risk of counting or enumerating that person again in a different place of house during the week,” Mahlwele told Africa Check.

Sonke Gender Justice, working with the Human Social Science Research Council (HSRC), plans to release South Africa’s first State of the Fathers report on 12 July 2018. It will include policy proposals for increasing men’s involvement in childcare.

Conclusion: More than 60% of biological fathers don’t live with their children

Washing powder brand Omo claimed 57% of South African kids were raised without fathers in an advert celebrating people who fulfil this role.

The figure came from 2002 data which measured whether biological fathers were absent from the household at least four days a week.

More recent data based on this measure produced a higher share of 61.8% to 64.1% of kids living without fathers, including those whose father has died. This data excludes children raised by fathers who didn’t live with them and men not related to them, but who play a fatherlike role.

Edited by Anim van Wyk


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Comments 4
  1. By Beulah mcNeil

    Yes quite correct. My Grandson who is now 22 has lived with me his Grandmother all his life. His biological Father who works for a top company is South Africa has perhaps seen him six times in his life. He only saw him when he was 3 months old after being to the pub and when I asked for money for him he gave us R300 per month. My eldest so has paid for my Grandson to go to private school holidays and now Varsity ,- my son also a few years ago took my Grandsons Father to court through his lawyers – he kept ducking and diving the sherrif of the court and then tried is he my son – the lawyers after months got hold of him – he pays but only the last 5 years and he can afford it – the most upsetting thing for my Grandson was his Father got another girlfriend with two children to live with him the little boy looks like my Grandsons Father and my Grandsons why is my Dad starting a family now but didn’t with me – it broke my heart . But thank the Lord because of my son he has turned out to get a great person and even got his South African Green Blazer for Rowing – Shame on all parents who throw their children away – May God forgive them. I worked all the years looking after him as my husband was killed by a drunken driver when I was 40. Thank you

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  2. By Cameon Thackwell

    No matter how you look at it. It is disgusting statistics. I was a loving caring and giving Dad until false allegations FORCED me out of my child’s life. The emotional and psychological impact this has on my Son for the rest of his life as he does not understand why i am am not in his life. I wasn’t allowed to say goodbye. in his world i simply disappeared and this, as many studies have shown will leave him feeling that he is unloved by his father.

    We had a great relationship and all it toke was false report at a police station, with no investigation. If had done everything that i was accused of i should be in jail for the rest of my life as only a monster would do all that i was accused of. The family court has no interest in the child. Then everyone is so surprised that we have such a high dysfunctional society which inevitable steams back to creating emotionally and psychologically unbalanced youth.

    I love my Son with all my soul and constantly think about how he feels thinking that dad doesn’t love me and doesn’t care about me. He was 7 that was 4 years ago.

    Maybe you could do and article on the truth behind fathers that have been ripped out of their child’s life and offer true statistics on that. With your resources I am sure you could help get the message out there.

    Many thanks for your article it was an interesting read.


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  3. By Lindiwe Matshiane

    Its very sad how things are happening these days and all the sadness cause we dont listen or obey rules set by our creator. I know kids who are not raised by their dads cause their mom chose to sleep with a married man, so the married guy has children in his marriage,where will he be a full time dad? In his marriage obviously,so as parents,teachers,role models,pastors,leaders, Lets teach this generation some morals,morals from long ago,morals that worked back then and are still working today,lets not complicate life, bottom line is there is only one correct way of living and we must find that from the Guy who made us all, no children outside marriage, no adultery, no fornication then will all be safe from unwanted diseases, unwanted pregnancy and child maintenance battles. Lets have deep respect for one another Please.

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