The case for basic income
‘There are at least five arguments for basic income support.
✅First is the moral case for providing support to the poor, which in South Africa is also a constitutional right.
✅ Second is the positive economic impact: boosting the purchasing power of the poorest will create income multipliers, stimulating local economic growth and livelihoods.
✅ Third is social solidarity and cohesion. The recent spate of looting in parts of the country, ostensibly triggered by the imprisonment of former president Jacob Zuma, was just as much an outburst of frustration and anger against a system that excludes millions of citizens who see no hope for their future.
The social relief of distress grant will alleviate some of this hardship and make everyone feel recognised and included.
✅ The fourth argument for a basic income support is COVID-19. The pandemic and the lockdowns affected low-paid and informal workers badly, and prompted a R500 billion (US$34 billion) social and economic support package from the government, including a temporary employer/employee relief scheme and the special relief grant.
Though temporary, these interventions highlighted the underlying problems of chronic poverty and unemployment that receive too little policy attention in “normal” times. This has prompted calls to make these emergency relief measures permanent.
✅ Finally, a basic income support would improve the effectiveness of the existing social grants. The child support grant is intended to meet the basic needs of 13 million children in low-income households. But instead this cash is diluted among the entire family because unemployed parents and carers also need food and clothes.’
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