Social assistance reform during a period of fiscal stress
Stellenbosch Working Paper Series No. WP17/2010
Author(s): Servaas van der Berg, Krige Siebrits
JEL Classification: C10, H52, I21
Keywords: Social grants, Effects of social grants, Labour market outcomes, Anti-poverty policy, South Africa
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This paper reflects on the current state and likely future of the South African social assistance system, focusing specifically on its fiscal sustainability, its effectiveness as an instrument to combat poverty in a longer-term developmental sense, and its impact on the allocation of resources. Despite showing that the grants system is an effective intervention which markedly reduces poverty and apparently does not have severe undesirable behavioural effects, the paper argues that the scope for strengthening anti-poverty policy in South Africa by further expanding the social grants system nonetheless has become very limited. The main policy conclusions of the paper are that sustainable poverty reduction in South Africa requires inclusive job-creating economic growth, and that anti-poverty policy should remain focused on achieving his objective.