Black Sash press release, 28 November 2018
Arising from widespread concerns raised by civil society organizations, Black Sash hosted a Social Security Seminar from 21 to 23 November 2018 with the theme Facing A World Without Full Employment. The seminar focused on the causes for and options to address structural unemployment within South Africa.
The seminar raised concerns that instead of creating jobs the current economy has shed jobs with expanded unemployment at 37.3% (in the third quarter 2018). The South African economy has not distributed income through employment and continues to entrench extreme levels of inequality. Social security has proven to be an effective mechanism to address income distribution and inequality globally. Piecemeal attempts to address these challenges were heavily criticised. In many instances solutions reinforce entrenched disadvantage rather than reverse the high levels of social stratification. Currently South Africa lacks both the holistic vision and the institutional framework required to draw these major policy areas into a single strategy that combines social security with labour market strategies, industrial policy and fiscal policy.
Around fifty participants from non-governmental, mass-based, faith-based and research organisations gathered in Johannesburg. The Seminar was attended by:
Alternative Information and Development Centre (AIDC), Assembly of Unemployed, Benoni Community Advice Centre, Black Sash, Casual Workers Advice Office (CWAO), Centre for Child Law, Centre for Complex Systems in Transition (CST), Children in Distress Network (CINDI), Children’s Institute, Corruption Watch, Desk for Social Development of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Republic of Namibia (DfSD-ELCRN0), Dullah Omar Institute, Equal Education, Family Institute, Institute for Economic Justice (IEJ), Lawyers for Human Rights, Peace Centre, Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice & Dignity Group, South African Men’s Action Group (SAMAG), Social Justice Coalition, Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference, South African NGO Coalition (SANGOCO), Southern African Social Policy Research Institute (SASPRI), Studies in Poverty and Inequality Institute (SPII), The Centre for Social Development in Africa (CSDA), Thuso Ea Sechaba Legal Advice Centre, Unemployed People’s Movement, #UniteBehind, Women on Farms Project and Zola Advice Centre.
The Seminar culminated with participants forming a Social Security Coalition (SSC) to pursue the following goals:
- The achievement of social security rights in South Africa consistent with the Bill of Rights as provided for in the South African Constitution;
- The continuous improvement of social security delivery systems in South Africa to ensure that everyone has access to appropriate social protection and a decent standard of living; and
- To ensure that those with no or little income between the ages of 18 to 59 have appropriate access to social assistance as well as other forms of social protection.
Professor Viviene Taylor, the Chair of the 2000 to 2002 Taylor Committee of Inquiry into Comprehensive Social Security, who presented at the Seminar, outlined that the combination of social assistance grants, minimum wages and the social wage (education, health care, free basic services, RDP houses, transport subsidies, school feeding schemes etc.) while making an impact on poverty and inequality, are unable to de-stratify South Africa’s highly unequal society and guarantee a decent standard of living for all. People over the age of 18 and under 59 years who are without waged work and live in poverty are without any social grant income. “They are destitute and dangerously disengaged” said Professor Taylor. The majority are young, black African, women and many live in rural, informal areas and impoverished townships.
Black Sash’s National Director, Lynette Maart: “Social Assistance, as a human right, in the form of a basic income, should be considered as an important tool to address poverty and inequality. While the government has shown commitment to pro-poor policies, it must consider income support for unemployed and precariously employed adults”. It was strongly argued that the level of poverty and inequality in South Africa was unacceptable in the past, and equally unacceptable going forward.
Empirical evidence proves that income transfers reduce poverty and inequality. South Africa must consider both income transfers and free services at a scale sufficient to restore the distribution of income to acceptable levels. With this in mind, an important focus for the Social Security Coalition will be to conduct a campaign calling for the establishment of income support for the 18 – 59-year-old cohort in South Africa in addition to related forms of income protection and improved governance.
For more information on the Coalition contact SocialSecurityCoalition@blacksash.org.za
Issued by the Black Sash on behalf of the Social Security Coalition.