South Africa’s transition to democracy in the 1990s has evoked a statistical awakening reminiscent of the “social indicators movement” of the 1970s. This special issue on South African quality of life seeks to capture this new fascination with social indicators and the manner in which social researchers, policy makers and the general public are approaching the task of social reporting in the post-apartheid era. As some contributors to this special issue on quality of life in South Africa note, an adjunct of apartheid has been the absence of comprehensive and credible social indicators to assist with policy formation. Fresh interest in capturing South African quality of life in statistics in the post-apartheid era has helped to fill the gap. Former mistrust of official statistics has been replaced with a – perhaps exaggerated – faith in the power of social indicators to guide and monitor the changes occurring in the new democracy.