South Africa’s government spends more on social assistance than the rest of the world, with one out of every three people receiving a social grant.Advertisement
About one in every three South Africans directly benefits from various iterations of the Sassa grant. This puts government spending on social assistance above the global average.
On average, R180 billion or 3.3% of GDP is spent on child support, elderly, and disability grants. But a social safety net for people of working age was found to be limited in its coverage.
The World Bank review published a report in which it gave several findings around South Africa’s social assistance programmes.
According to Chief Director of Social Assistance, Brenton Van Vrede, the country has fared quite well but should make improvements in some areas.
The report says that South Africa’s social assistance system is effective in that it is well-targeted and covers a large number of the poor population and provides sizable payments to low-income households.
It also found that it is effective in reducing poverty and inequality. The income from the country’s social assistance system was also found to have positive effects on other elements such as nutrition, food security, health attainment as well as labour supply.
On the downside, the report also found that South Africa’s social assistance system is only accessible to below 40% of the country’s population, while a large portion of the country’s population, particularly those classified as being of working age, aged between 18 and 60 have no access to any form of social security in spite of the recent Covid interventions.
The report further states that in order to remedy this discrepancy the government needs to have better linkages between other government departments and services.
This would in turn strengthen the overall social wage that the government provides to this population of people.
The report indicated some weakness in the delivery system of these funds. But Van Vrede says since it was published prior to the pandemic the department has made strides in integrating people’s data into its payment systems.
I think we’ve made a lot of strides in that area because, as a result of Covid, we were forced to implement many of these digital systems that the report is alluding to.
He adds that the introduction of the SASSA R350 SRD grant is an example of this integration process and admits that the system is not perfect.
As we’re implementing we are still working on it and trying to improve we have had some significant Beta challenges as you will have seen in the media during the last few months.
The Chief Director also admits that despite what the report may say, the Social Development Department of is aware of the fact that some of its grants are very small at the individual level.