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South Africa’s Child Support Grant: A booster for poverty reduction

11.7 million poor children in South Africa are now covered by the social benefit which is having a positive impact on their daily lives.

Feature | 14 April 2016
GENEVA (ILO News) – About 60 per cent of South Africa’s 23 million children live in poverty. Providing support to poorer households has been seen as a priority by authorities.

The Child Support Grant (CSG) is one of the social protection benefits for children that has been significantly expanded over the last decades. From 10 per cent of poor children covered when it was introduced in 1998, it reached 85 per cent of them in 2015 (11.7 million). This growth resulted from an increase in the number of children entitled to the grant as well as successful awareness-raising campaigns.

The CSG provides 330 South African rands (US$27) monthly to poor children up to 18 years of age. It is complemented by other similar benefits such as the Foster Care Grant as well as free education, school feeding and affordable health services.

Elizabeth Mkase has been taking care of her nephew in a poor South African neighbourhood.

“I can’t even remember how many years my nephew has been with me since his parents died. Life was difficult because I did not have a job. I am grateful for the support that I was given through the grant as I didn’t know how I was going to cope,” she recalled.

Since unemployment is high and poverty still widespread in South Africa, the grant is spent primarily on food. So it also positively impacts children’s health and nutrition. An ILO country note issued earlier this year notes a study showing children benefiting from the grant were, on average, 3.5 centimetres taller than other children.

Above the poverty line

“The Child Support Grant has helped children to get out of the poverty line,” said Frank Earl, Executive manager, Grant Administration at the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA), noting also other progress made in terms of health care and free basic education.

Part of the success is due to the creation of the SASSA, which made delivery of social grants transparent and independent from political considerations. A specific outreach programme also helps people living in remote areas to register and avoid them being excluded from receiving social protection benefits.

Using modern technology

A sophisticated electronic registration system requires children and their caretakers to submit their biometric data, including their photographs, fingerprints and voice recordings. This information, along with the beneficiary identification number, are stored on an electronic chip card which is the only instrument used to identify beneficiaries.

A better trained workforce will ultimately reduce unemployment and create a more productive society."

Brenton van Drede, Chief Director at the Social Assistance Department of Social Development
Looking towards the future, South Africa is now thinking of broadening access to social protection benefits such as the Child Support Grant.

“At the moment, the grant is allocated based on income. However, we are thinking of extending it to all children, even to those over 18 since we believe it is useful to continue to support them so that they can complete their education and training,” said Brenton van Drede, Chief Director at the Social Assistance Department of Social Development.

“A better trained workforce will ultimately reduce unemployment and create a more productive society,” he added.

Strong political will

“South Africa is a good example that the extension of social protection to children is feasible and affordable for middle-income countries especially because the country showed strong political will to increase public expenditures on social protection,” said Valérie Schmitt, Chief, Social Policy, Governance and Standards Branch at the ILO Social protection department.

“Social grants for children as well as free education, school feeding and affordable health services are all contributing to reduce poverty and vulnerability while ensuring that all children have access to nutrition, education and care,” she added.

Today, South Africa redistributes about 3.5 per cent of its GDP through social assistance programmes.

Building social protection floors

National Social Protection Floors (SPFs) guarantee access to essential health care and basic income security for children, persons of working age and older persons.

Adopted by 185 countries, the Social Protection Floors Recommendation, 2012 (No.202) is aimed at achieving universal social protection.

The ILO Social Protection Department publishes a Country Note Series presenting innovative experiences across the world in expanding social protection.