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The continuing politics of basic income in South Africa

Year: 2010
Working paper number: 286
Author: Seekings, Jeremy
Unit: SSU

South African government ministers routinely profess their commitment to mitigating poverty and inequality, including – if necessary – through broad and expensive welfare programs. The South African state redistributes approximately 3.5% of GDP through non-contributory social assistance programs, paying out more than 13 million grants every month, in a country whose total population is less than 50 million. No other country in the global South spends as much on social assistance or reaches as high a proportion of the population.  Yet many poor people remain beyond the reach of the public welfare system, and many of these poor people vote for the governing party, the African National Congress (ANC). This would seem to be fertile ground for the introduction of a basic income grant (BIG) reaching all citizens (and voters). Indeed, in 2002, a government-appointed committee of enquiry recommended (albeit tentatively) the introduction of a BIG. 

Publication file: WP286.pdf