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Deserving individuals and groups: Justifying the shape of South Africa's welfare state

Year: 2007
Working paper number: 193
Author: Seekings, Jeremy
Abstract:

The constitution charges the government with the progressive realisation of the right of impoverished citizens to income security.  In practice, this means that the government must have a reasonable defence of the current size and shape of its social welfare programmes.  Legal challenges have pushed the state into offering such a defence.  In summary, the state justifies the current size and shape of the welfare state primarily on the grounds that the state is targeting its scarce resources on the most 'disadvantaged' groups, where disadvantage is defined in terms of past opportunity not of current need.  In this view, the public welfare system should help those groups of people who had fewest opportunities to provide for themselves.  This argument entails a new version of the distinction between 'deserving' and 'undeserving' poor.  The state's application of this argument in recent court papers is flawed empirically, but in making the argument the state has provided a basis for constructive debate on the shape of the welfare state.


Publication file: WP193.pdf
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