Call for Basic Income Grant: A New Hope for South African Social Protection

  1. At the Second BRICS Working Group meeting, Dr Joni Musabayana emphasized the need for South Africa to adopt the Basic Income Grant (BIG) as an essential tool for social protection, particularly in response to crisis situations like the COVID-19 pandemic.
  2. Despite South Africa’s social protection coverage being significantly higher than the African average, challenges persist, including border crossings to access the system and a high unemployment rate.
  3. Mr Sipho Ndebele, from the Department of Employment and Labour, stressed the importance of making social protection systems effective and accessible to all, including workers in the informal economy, and highlighted the role of social protection in promoting inclusive growth, reducing inequality and poverty, and ensuring decent work.

At the Second BRICS Working Group meeting held in Port Alfred, South Africa, Dr Joni Musabayana, International Labour Organisation (ILO) Director for Decent Work for Southern and Eastern Africa, emphasized the need for South Africa to resolve the R350 Social Relief Grant controversy and adopt the Basic Income Grant (BIG) as a crucial tool for social protection.

Dr Musabayana stressed that the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the need for countries to be prepared for crises at all times. Social protection mechanisms are necessary to limit the impact of crises and prevent panic. The BRICS association, comprised of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, aims to ensure decent work, dignity, and respect for all. The current meeting, a follow-up to the first event in Johannesburg, will conclude on Friday.

South Africa’s social protection coverage reaches approximately 52% of its population, significantly higher than the African continent’s average of 17%. This disparity results in challenges, such as people crossing the border to access South Africa’s social protection system and the country’s high unemployment rate.

Ms Christina Behrendt, Head of Social Policy Unit in the Social Protection Department of the ILO, stated that guaranteeing a basic level of income security is a critical function of a national social protection floor. Features of effective social assistance programs include legal anchoring, transparent eligibility conditions, adequate benefit levels, regular reviews of benefit levels, and social dialogue with tripartite participation.

Mr Sipho Ndebele, Acting Deputy Director-General responsible for Labour Policy and Industrial Relations in the Department of Employment and Labour, highlighted the importance of social protection in promoting inclusive economic growth, reducing inequality and poverty, and ensuring decent work. He emphasized the need to make social protection systems effective, efficient, and accessible to all workers, including those in the informal economy and vulnerable groups.

Ndebele also pointed out that the informal economy employs a significant proportion of the labor force in BRICS countries. Policies and programs aimed at enabling informal workers to acquire skills and access decent work opportunities are essential, as is ensuring their access to social protection, including health insurance and pensions.

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