SA may soon get 'the dole'

2015-03-01 18:00

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Government is planning to introduce social assistance to unemployed South Africans between the ages of 19 and 59 who do not receive support from government.

It is not clear yet whether this will be in the form of a grant, but Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini said government must ensure unemployed people in this age group were able to put food on the table every day.

Government has focused on social relief mainly for malnourished children, “but the reality is we have malnourished adults in South Africa, too”, Dlamini told City Press in an interview.

She said government had identified a significant gap – a lack of social assistance – for unemployed people between the ages of 19 and 59.

Government already has the expanded public works programme – which aims to provide “poverty and income relief through temporary work for the unemployed to carry out socially useful activities”, says the public works website.

However, said Dlamini: “How do you ensure it helps families put food on the table daily?

“That’s what we are talking about.”

Details of the policy proposals will be tabled in a discussion document to be published in the coming weeks for public comment.

Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene announced during his budget speech this week that there were 16.4?million beneficiaries of social assistance by December last year. He said the department of social development would get an additional R7.1?billion in its budget to accommodate the growing numbers of people getting assistance.

In the early 2000s, several NGOs wanted a basic income grant for everyone who was a legal resident in South Africa, regardless of age or income. But this had been rejected by government as unaffordable.

The department is also proposing the introduction of a national social security fund that will collect mandatory contributions from workers to provide retirement, death and disability benefits – based on uniform standards – “for all”.

Dlamini rejected any suggestion that South Africa might become or already was a “nanny state”, as suggested by some political parties and observers.

“It’s easy to say we want to be a nanny state; but for people who have been to communities, visited rural areas, informal settlements, and spent time with other people who live in the periphery of the cities, you see squalor, you see hunger, you smell poverty.”

She said as a developmental state, social security reforms were an investment for the future.

“[The idea of a nanny state] is an insult; it is said by the elite or people who come from the middle class, who have everything and, I think, opportunistically they forget where we come from. Why are we not looking at this as an investment?”

She said grants were never an issue when they were being received by the few, but critics complained about a nanny state now that the majority had access to them.

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