New grant may target unemployed people aged 19 to 59 years, govt says

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Minister of Social Development Lindiwe Zulu. (Pic: Netwerk24)
Minister of Social Development Lindiwe Zulu. (Pic: Netwerk24)
  • Minister of Social Development Lindiwe Zulu says her department wants to table a proposal on an income grant to cabinet this year.
  • The grant will target unemployed people aged between 19 and 59, she added. 
  • It is estimated that around a fifth of South Africans still survive on less than R561 a month, the so-called food poverty line.

South Africa could soon get an unemployment grant, Minister of Social Development Lindiwe Zulu confirmed this week.

During her department’s budget vote presentation in parliament on Tuesday, she said that a Basic Income Grant (BIG) proposal will be tabled before Cabinet this year.

"The need to introduce the basic income grant has become an urgent consideration for the African National Congress-led government. To this end, the Department has developed a BIG discussion document that we have started to consultations on. These consultations are targeted at developing the BIG financing mechanism for the unemployed population group that is aged 19 to 59 years."

She said that the proposal will build on the success of the Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grant, which paid out R350 a month to 6.5 million unemployed people during the pandemic. Zulu says the grant played a major role in the reduction of hunger, poverty and inequalities.

Research shows that around a fifth of South Africans still survive on less than R561 a month, the so-called food poverty line, Zulu said.

Earlier this year, President Cyril Ramaphosa expressed support for a basic income grant, as "a social safety net to the poor".

The planned new grant is not a universal grant – as many anti-poverty organisations had hoped for – but looks instead like a payout targeted to those without any other income.

Zulu noted that there is "a lot of discussion where the money is coming from" for the new grant, but she didn’t provide any information about the proposed funding mechanism.

Her department is facing a tight squeeze, with budget cuts of more than R38 billion over the next three years, as government seeks to trim its ballooning debts.

"It's a pain, but it is something we have to go through," Zulu said in her speech.

For the current financial year, her department received an allocation of R205 billion – which is R6.5 billin less than the previous year’s initial allocation.

Some 95% of the budget – almost R196 billion – will go towards social grants, which are paid out monthly to 18 million people. The remaining 5% has to cover all of the department’s other programmes as well as the administration of social grants.

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