South Africa’s shocking dependence on grants

 ·18 Aug 2023

The dire state of South Africa’s economy is reflected in the most recent General Household Survey for 2022 by Stats SA.

According to the statistics body, social grants remain a crucial safety net for many, especially in the poorer provinces.

Nationally, grants were the second most important source of income (50.2%) for households after salaries (59.7%). That said, according to the survey, grants were the primary source of income for one quarter (23.5%) of all households in South Africa.

However, in the Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga, Limpopo and Free State, a larger percentage of households received grants instead of salaries.

The number of households and persons who benefitted from social grants has also increased substantially from 30,9% in 2019 to 37,0% in 2022 following the introduction of the COVID-19 Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grant.

Moreover, the number of households that received grants concurrently jumped from 30.8% to 49.5% over the same period.

Children and education

Looking at individuals, the survey showed that 19.5% of children live with neither of their biological parents, while only 32.7% live with both of their parents.

Over two-fifths (44.1%) of children lived with their mothers. 12.3% of children are also orphans, having lost one or both of their parents.

The report said that 55.5% of people between the ages of 0-4 lived with their parents or guardians, while 31.5% participated in ECD programs at day-care centres, crèches, playgroups, nursery schools and pre-primary schools.

Although school participation was almost universal (97.0%) by age 15, there was a substantial dropoff to 66.3% by 18.

Water and sanitation

Households with access to improved water sources have increased by 3.9% from 84,4% in 2002 to 88.5% in 2022.

Despite the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal seeing increases over the period, there has been a decline in six other provinces, the most notable being in Limpopo, Mpumalanga and the Free State.

“The declines should, however, be contextualised by noting that more households had access to piped water in 2022 than twenty-one years earlier,” Stats SA said.

In addition, the number of households with improved sanitation also grew from 61,7% in 2022 to 83.2% in 2023.

The most significant improvements were seen in the Eastern Cape and Limpopo.


The survey also noted that 89.6% of households were connected to mains electricity in 2022.

However, 23.5% of households did not use electricity mains for cooking in 2022.

Stats SA said that gas (6.7%) and electricity from other sources, such as generators (4.8%), became more prominent over the period – with a third of households still using wood for cooking in Limpopo.

This could be due to the substantial increase in load shedding seen in the second half of 2022, which only worsened in 2023.

Covid-19 vaccination

Stats SA added that Covid-19 vaccination rates varied significantly depending on age and geography, with 44.4% of South Africans eligible remaining unvaccinated in 2022.

Whilst only 24.3% of those older than 60 years or older were vaccinated, 69.1% of individuals between the ages of 12 and 17 were unvaccinated.

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