A South African panel recommended the country gradually implement a basic income grant, beginning with the institutionalisation of a monthly welfare payment introduced last year to offset damage wrought by the coronavirus pandemic.
“There is no alternative to a system of income support for income-compromised adults from the ages of 18-59 as a permanent part of the social protection framework,” Alex van den Heever, the chair of social security systems administration and management studies at the University of Witwatersrand and a member of the panel, said Monday.
The panel was appointed by the Department of Social Development, the International Labor Organization and the United Nations-backed Joint Sustainable Development Goals Fund.
The monthly welfare payment of R350 ($21.82), which was reintroduced after civil unrest in July, is set to end in March.
Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana last month resisted calls by civil-society groups for increased welfare spending and for the introduction of a basic income grant – a policy business organizations say is unaffordable. The National Treasury has said it will only set aside additional funds for social relief if state finances improve by February.
While about 18 million South Africans, or a third of the population, receive welfare payments, most of those come in the form of old-age pensions and child support payments.
South Africa is the world’s most unequal nation, according to the Thomas Piketty-backed World Inequality Lab.