It is about time South Africa resolves the controversial issue of the R350 Social Relief Grant in favour of the Basic Income Grant (BIG), a meeting of the Second BRICS Working Group was told in Port Alfred, Eastern Cape on the first day on Tuesday.
Dr Joni Musabayana, International Labour Organisation (ILO) Director for Decent Work for Southern and Eastern Africa was speaking during a panel discussion on the background dealing with Universal Social Protection and Basic Income Grant (BIG).
“The reason we have to urgently resolve this matter is that the COVID – 19 Pandemic has shown us that crises are going to become part of our lives and therefore we have to be disaster ready at all times. We need Social Protection to limit the impact so that we don’t panic every time there is crisis,” he said.
BRICS is an association of immerging economies, namely: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. The meeting is taking place under the theme: “Ensuring Decent Work, Dignity and Respect for all” and it will end of Friday.
The meeting in Port Alfred is a sequel to the first EWG which took place in Muldersdrift, Johannesburg in February.
Dr Musabayana said in terms of Social Protection, South Africa covers about 52 percent of its population, while the average for the African continent stands 17 percent.
“This poses a challenge for South Africa with people crossing the border to access it. The elephant in the room is the real unemployment challenge in South Africa. This gives us a structural challenge with many people unable to access this relief,” said Dr Musabayana.
Ms Christina Behrendt, Head of Social Policy Unit in the Social Protection Department of the ILO, said guaranteeing at least a basic level of income security is a key function of a national social protection floor.
“Minimum income grants and other social assistance benefits play a key role in guaranteeing at least a basic level of income security with important features being:
- Programmes anchored in national law, clear and transparent eligibility conditions (including on means-tests), grievance mechanisms and rights of appeal
- Benefit levels of adequate to allow for life in dignity
- Regular review of benefit levels of keeping up with living standards
- Social dialogue that involves tripartite participation and other relevant stakeholder,” she said.
Mr Sipho Ndebele, Acting Deputy Director-General responsible for Labour Policy and Industrial Relations in the Department of Employment Labour, said: “we recognise the important of Social Protection promoting inclusive economic growth, reducing inequality and alleviating poverty as well as decent work.”
“We must ensure that social protection systems are effective, efficient and accessible to all workers, including those in the informal economy as well as the vulnerable groups.”
Mr Ndebele said the informal economy provides employment for the significant proportion of the labour force in BRICS countries.
“Therefore developing policies and programmes that enable informal workers to acquire skills and access opportunities for decent work is essential. We must ensure that informal workers have access to social protection that includes health insurance, pensions and others.
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Issued by: Department of Employment and Labour