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Ending social grants politically, socially difficult Stats SA Household Survey shows

Stats SA’s Service Delivery Statistics director Niel Roux. Picture: Supplied

Stats SA’s Service Delivery Statistics director Niel Roux. Picture: Supplied

Published Jul 1, 2022

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This article first appeared in the 27 June 2022 edition of the Cape Argus newspaper.

Cape Town - An economic analyst says the latest Statistics SA General Household Survey (GHS) has shown that it will be politically and socially difficult for the government to end the Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grant any time soon.

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Stats SA last week published its latest GHS, an annual publication that tracks social and economic development across several areas including education, housing, health, service delivery, social security as well as household assets and sources of income.

The Western Cape came out on top in almost all service delivery metrics with 99.4% of households having access to piped or tap water; 94.8% of households with access to flush toilets and 95.1% of households connected to the mains electricity supply.

On incomes, the proportion of households that reported salaries as their primary source of income improved to 52.4% in 2021 from 50.8% in 2020, but this was still lower than 54.8% recorded in 2019.

However, social grants appear to have continued to be an important safety net for many households. The proportion of households that reported social grants as their primary source of income was 24.4% in 2021, down from 28.8% in 2020 but still higher than 20.4% in 2019.

This is likely explained by the extension of the Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grant with labour market recovery proving to be slow and rising inflation placing many low-income households under immense financial pressure.

Absa analyst Miyelani Maluleke said: “In our view, the latest GHS data highlight that it will be politically and socially difficult for the government to terminate the SRD grant.”

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Stats SA’s Service Delivery Statistics director Niel Roux said that the rollout of the special Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress grant (SRD) in 2020 had played a central role in protecting individuals and households against the loss of income during the pandemic.

In the Western Cape 71.2% households were found to derive their income from salaries, but in the Eastern Cape the percentage of households that received grants as a main source of income (42%) exceeded those who received salaries and wages (37.3%).

At the same time civil society organisations have taken the government to court over what they have said are “new unfair and exclusionary SRD regulations, and payment delays”.

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To qualify for the grant, citizens must first undergo a means test to prove they don’t earn more than R350 a month from any other sources. Then they must navigate a complicated online application process.

Good party MP Brett Herron said his party stood in solidarity with civil society bodies that have taken up the plight of the most vulnerable, saying a basic income grant (BIG) would stave off “a humanitarian crisis”.

He said, “South Africa must find a way to afford BIG. It comes down to priorities. If we accept as the norm the throwing away of money, wastefully, irregularly and inappropriately lavishly, funding a BIG will be virtually impossible.”

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