The ‘fertility rate’ refers to the average number of children that are born to a woman who is a member of a particular demographic population, during her reproductive years (internationally these are nominated as the ages between 15 and 44).
The fertility rate is a social indicator applied to a particular group over a particular time period (usually over a year). It gives an idea of the average number of babies that a woman could expect to bear during her lifetime, if the current fertility rate was to continue.
The fertility rate in South Africa
The fertility rate in South Africa has gone through huge changes over the last few decades, all reflecting the socio-cultural trends of the time. Below is a table to show the steady decline in the fertility rate over the past 50 years, as given by World Bank:
Fertility (birth) rate
It is noticeable how the birth rate has gone down over the preceding decades. Our fertility rate is among the lowest in the whole of the sub-Saharan Africa region.
The latest Statistics South Africa report has more detail and are available here: Stats SA - 2010 Report
Interesting to note
In the rural provinces like the Eastern Cape and Limpopo the birth rates are much higher than in the more urban provinces like Gauteng and Western Cape.
Data gathered since the 1950s show that fertility was and still is high among the black and coloured populations and low in the Indian and white populations.
For more information see Fertility.