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Social Grants – Separating Myths from Facts

By Neelam Rahim

It is generally assumed that many times argued that social grants create dependency and that South Africa is fast becoming or already has become a nanny state. But according to Professor Ingrid Woolard, this is not necessarily the case. She highlights in the Stellenbosch Business School 2020 women’s report that she contributed to the positive impacts of social grants, especially on women and children.

Joining the discussion with Radio Islam International, Professor Ingrid Woolard said South Africa is one of the world’s most extensive social grant systems. There are 18 million people on grants, excluding the roughly 10 million receiving the Covid funding.

It is a massive system, but we must remember that most parts of those grants are pretty small. The child support grant is R480. The grants are intended for the vulnerable, so almost 14 million go to children, and nearly 4 million go to the elderly.

In the main, it creates many benefits, and the outcomes are positive. However, one will always see some abuse of any system.

According to Professor Woolard, some teenagers have made very poor choices and perhaps chosen to become pregnant to access the R480 grant.

She says we need to address that problem and ensure that our young people understand the monification of childbearing and that the cost of raising a child is much more than R480.

Meanwhile, the reality is that very few teenage mothers are collecting child support grants for their children. A fair number of adolescent mothers in the country, around 41 per 1000 teenagers, are unlikely to collect the child support grant.

Professor Woolard said it doesn’t seem that the grants are driving this behaviour. Still, it is much more about risky sexual behaviour, the lack of access to contraception, and unequal male and female power relations.

“We need to think about how do we address those issues rather than focusing on the grants.”

Elderly female pensioners receiving a grant positively impact the entire household.

According to Professor Woolard, there is a long and established literature on the pension, mainly when the pensioner is a female, that money goes towards supporting everyone in the household.

Regarding the child support grant, professor Woolard said teenagers who are beneficiaries of the grant are 10 per cent more likely to stay in school than children who do not receive the funding, which is a compelling result.

Social grants, in the main, have positive outcomes but are not a long-term solution to unemployment, poverty, inequality etc.

“Grants are the one thing that government has done incredibly well, we are very good at handing out cash, but cash on it isn’t the solution.”

She added that government could not pin it on giving a little cash; all is well. That is not the reality. We need a functioning government, building infrastructure and creating jobs, which is a vital part of why so many people are on grants.

Listen to the interview on Radio Islam’s podcast below.


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