The DA believes that opportunity is the vehicle through which all South Africans can be empowered to live lives that they value, to pursue their dreams and to develop their full potential. This belief lies at the core of our vision of an Open Opportunity Society for All.
To realise this vision, we understand that the government has certain responsibilities. First and foremost we see it as the responsibility of government to provide an enabling environment for job creating economic growth. This requires the government to provide a stable economic policy environment, appropriate incentives to guide business activity in support of growth and jobs, good infrastructure, and an education system that delivers a skilled labour corps that can propel the economy towards excellence.
But many South Africans remain excluded from opportunities. Where we govern, our long term goal will be to ensure that all people can be active participants in a vibrant, growing economy and enjoy the developmental benefits associated with growth. However, the reality is that some vulnerable citizens require immediate social protection provided by a government that is committed to ensuring that they have access to basic services and that they are protected from poverty-induced hunger.
In a society where nearly one if four people do not have a job, where 41% of the population lives below the poverty line and where 12 million people do not have access to adequate nutrition, there are many who require assistance from a caring government.
There is international consensus that countries should maintain a minimum “floor” of social protection1. This should include access to health care and basic income security to ensure access to nationally agreed necessary goods and services. Protection must be primarily aimed at those who are not or cannot be employed to earn their own livelihoods. This includes the most vulnerable groups in society, namely children, the aged, people with disabilities and those who find themselves without jobs for long periods of time.
In the South African context the consensus around the need to work towards a minimum social protection floor is supported by a rights-based approach informed by the Constitution. This includes:
- Section 27 – which determines that every South African has the right to have access to health care services, sufficient food and water and social assistance if they are unable to support themselves; and
- Section 28 – which outlines the basic rights of children (including the right to care, nutrition, shelter, basic health care and social services).
Social assistance in the form of grants comes at a great cost to the state. Between 1994 and 2010, social grant expenditure grew by 700% from R11 billion to R88 billion2. In 2013/14, government will spend R113 billion on social grants, mostly going to old-age pensions (39%) and child support grants (37%). Research by the Bureau for Economic Research shows that in 2012 there were roughly three people on social grants for every person who pays income tax and almost two social grant beneficiaries for every person with a job3. Further, research from the South African Institute for Race Relations shows that there are now only 90 people employed for every 100 people on social welfare in South Africa.
It is clear that to ensure that the tax base can accommodate South Africa’s social protection system, we must continue to make it our first priority to grow the economy and create jobs.
Social protection in the form of social grants has, however, been one of the most effective policy interventions in South Africa in terms of reducing poverty and vulnerability.
Between 1997 and 2011, social grants have helped to decrease the number of people in South Africa living on less than $2 a day by 82%4. There has also been a marked decline in child poverty and in the number of children who do not have access to an adequate standard of living, including access to electricity, housing, water and sanitation5. Research shows that child support grants and old-age pensions are used to enhance the nutrition and schooling of children6 and that child grant beneficiaries are already more likely to be in school and achieve higher scores in critical subjects (such as maths)7.
Labour force surveys tracking social grant recipients over time have shown that workers in households receiving social grants “look for work more intensively and extensively and find employment more successfully” than workers in comparable households who do not receive grants.
Social cash transfers provide a coping mechanism for the least fortunate, supporting a minimum level of subsistence and allowing them to invest time and money to improve their chances of getting better employment.
(Samson, 2009 – OECD)
The DA therefore supports a targeted system of social assistance to vulnerable persons.
To retain our primary focus on job creation means that our social development system must go beyond the mere protection of livelihoods – where we seek to ensure that all South Africans can maintain a minimum living standard. We must pursue social development policies that achieve livelihood promotion, where the assistance provided helps recipients to lift themselves out of poverty.