Education Series Volume IV: Early Childhood Development in South Africa, 2016

MEDIA RELEASE                                                                                                                27 February 2018


   Education Series Volume IV: Early Childhood Development in South Africa, 2016


The Early Childhood Development (ECD) report released by Statistics South Africa today shows that of the nearly 8, 2 million children aged 0–6 who according to the Mid-Year population Estimates lived in South Africa in 2016, almost half 46% were living in households belonging to the lower household income quintiles (quintiles 1 and 2). A breakdown by monthly household income quintile revealed that close to half of the children in the lower household income quintile did not attend educational facilities, while 40% of the children in the highest household income quintile attended ECD facilities. The ECD report which is based on the findings of the General Household Survey (GHS) 2016, further shows that 48% of these children lived in single parent family structures where  46% were residing with only their mothers, and 2% with their fathers only, while 12% lived with none of their biological parents. Close to 36% of children aged six or younger belonged to large households with more than six members; about 6% stayed in one-roomed dwellings and around 10% lived in dwellings which had no bedrooms.


According to the report, the majority of households in traditional and traditional areas had a disproportionately large burden of care for young children by grandparents and other family members. A large percentage of children were growing up in home environments that did not provide for communication or play to stimulate learning. Children in black African families were never encouraged to imitate daily activities 31% and 35% were never given answers when they pointed at objects and asked for explanations.


Most young children lived in households with poor access to piped water and improved sanitation. Only approximately 35% in Eastern Cape and 46% in Limpopo had access to piped water inside their dwellings or on site. In contrast, young children in Gauteng and Western Cape lived in households with nearly universal access to piped water inside their dwellings or on site (94% and 89% respectively). Only 57% of children in Limpopo had access to improved sanitation. One in ten of young children stayed in dwellings with poorly constructed roofs or walls. The worst cases were experienced by children in Western Cape with 17% of children living in dwellings with weak walls and 18% with weak roofs.


There was an increase in the percentage of children accessing the essential components of the ECD.  The most significant increase occurred in infant breastfeeding with 73% of children under the age of one year being breastfed in 2016 while also consuming other food and 32% infants being exclusively breastfed.


Overall half of children between 12 to 59 months received vitamin A supplement. Approximately a third of children in Gauteng and Free State were stunted (34, 2% and 33, 5% respectively). In 2016, according to the Department of Health data, South Africa also had one of the highest low birth weight rate with 13, 3% occurrences of live births of babies under 2,5kg nationally. The country also had a high underweight-for-age incidence among children under two years old with 21% occurrences nationally in 2016 according to data from the Department of Health.


While child mortality has declined over the years, under five mortality rates were still relatively high at 44 child deaths per 1 000 live births in 2016. These deaths mostly occurred during the perinatal periods and were caused by respiratory and cardiovascular disorders. Close to 61% of children less than one year of age had been immunised with all basic vaccinations. The incidence of pneumonia in children under 5 was 34%.


The percentage of pregnant women who made their first antenatal visit before 20 weeks was 61%. Overall in 2016, close to 76% of mothers returned to the facilities for their sixth day check-up. Two out of three births (66%) that occurred in South Africa took place at a health facility. The percentage of late birth registrations decreased from 12, 9% in 2010 to 3,4% in 2015. By March 2017, 4 931 544 children aged 0–6 had access to a child support grant. Out of these 9, 2% were one year old or less; the rest of the beneficiaries were aged 2–6 years.


For technical enquiries contact:


Ms Gwen Lehloenya

Acting Deputy Director-General: Population and Social Statistics

Tel: 012 310 9324




Dr Isabelle Schmidt

Chief Director: Social Statistics

Tel: 012 310 6379



Dr Seble Worku

Director: Education Statistics

Tel: 012 310 8480





For media enquiries contact:

Ms Lesedi Dibakwane

Tel: 012 310 8578

Cell: 082 805 7088



Issued by Statistics South Africa