Survey finds that South African children might not be as happy as we hope

SA children in bottom half of world happiness survey

A recent survey has shown that South African children might not be as happy as children in other parts of the world.

Children playing_gallo
File photo: Gallo Images

The Jacobs Foundation asked more than 17 000 8 year-old in 16 countries about their experiences and how they felt about their lives.

South Africa ranked 11th out of 16 countries.

The survey asked children about all key aspects of their lives including their family and home life, friendships, money and possessions, school life, local area, time use, personal well-being, views on children's rights, and their overall happiness.

In South Africa 996 children were asked to participate in the survey in the Western Cape.

Under children in South Africa, 'own body freedom' scored the highest while 'outdoor areas/safety' scored the lowest.

Child Happiness graph_jacanews
JacarandaFM News graphic

Simon Sommer, Head of Research at the Jacobs Foundation which funded the work, said: "This project is ground breaking. This report presents, for the first time, 8-year-old children's own perspectives on their lives and well-being."

Here are some of the findings:

Worried about money

Over a third of the children surveyed said that they 'often' or 'always' worried about how much money their family has. The levels of worry were highest (over 30% of children saying that they 'always' worried) in Israel, Colombia, Spain and Nepal. In South Korea and Germany the figure was less than 10%.


Most children in the survey said that they felt totally safe at home, at school and in their neighbourhood. However 4% of children did not agree at all that they felt safe at home, 4% did not agreed that they felt safe at school, and 9% did not agree at all that they felt safe when out and about in their neighbourhood. While these percentages are small they still add up to large numbers of children in each country.

Liking going to school - differences for girls and boys

Most children (62%) totally agreed that they liked going to school. This is much higher than in our surveys of 10-year-olds (52%) and 12-year-olds (42%). Children in Algeria and Ethiopia were most likely to like going to school and children in Germany, South Korea and the UK the least likely. In some countries - including Israel and six European countries - girls were much more positive about school than boys, but in other countries such as Nepal and Ethiopia there was no difference between girls and boys.

Being bullied at school

Many of the children said that, in the last month, they had been left out by classmates (41%) and that they had been hit by other children at school (48%). These experiences were more common among children aged eight than in the older two age groups in the survey. The percentage of children who had been hit was highest in Estonia, the UK and Germany and lowest in South Korea. The percentage who had been left out was highest in the UK and Romania and lowest in South Korea and Ethiopia.

Knowledge of children's rights

Almost half of children (46%) said that they knew about children's rights. This is lower than for older children aged 10 and 12 (58%). Children in Colombia (73%) were the most likely to know about children's rights, and in Turkey, Ethiopia, Romania and Norway over half of children also answered 'yes' to this question.

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