The South African Government has a constitutional and an international obligation to provide social security, including to ensure that those aged 18 to 59 years have access to social assistance.


The South African Government has a constitutional and an international obligation to provide social security, including to ensure that those aged 18 to 59 years have access to social assistance. 

Watch our webinar to launch the Basic Income Support campaign and report.

Section 27 of the Bill of Rights in the South African Constitution makes provision for Social Security “including appropriate social assistance if they are unable to support themselves”. Income support in the form of social grants is provided to approximately 18 million of the most vulnerable: the elderly, children and people with disabilities. However, able bodied persons aged 18 to 59 with no or little income are excluded from social assistance grants.

The South African government must uphold the United Nations International Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which it ratified. The Covenant forms the cornerstone of international human rights law. Key recommendations are that the South African government must “ensure that those between the ages of 18 and 59 with little or no income have access to social assistance; consider the possibility of introducing a universal basic income grant”; and “raise the level of government social assistance benefits to a level that ensures an adequate standard of living for recipients and their families”.

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The COVID-19 pandemic is a global economic and humanitarian crisis.  South Africa’s already dire economic situation, with the triple challenges of systemic poverty, unemployment and inequality, has become bleaker. The national lockdown has exacerbated structural unemployment, led to increased food prices and placed immense strain on household resources. The pandemic has compounded food insecurity and hunger is widespread. For the foreseeable future, the economy will not be able to absorb all the unemployed.

Income support for those aged 18 to 59 with no or little income is a critical step towards government’s implementation of a universal basic income grant to ensure that all who live in South Africa have an adequate standard of living.

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We demand that government:

  • Implements permanent social assistance for those aged 18 to 59, valued at the upper-bound poverty line, currently R1,268 per month. Caregivers, who receive the Child Support Grant must also qualify for this grant; 

  • Make the COVID-19 grant increases of R250 per month permanent for all social grants; 

  • Ensures that the above provisions apply to refugees, permanent residents, asylum seekers and migrant workers with special permits; and 

  • Works towards a universal basic income. 


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Click here to see a list of organisations who have endorsed the campaign

More about this campaign

Download the Basic Income Support Case for Support Report: 


View the Presentation

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Key Conceptual Documents:

The National Department of Social Development’s Discussion Paper on Income Support for the Unemployed aged 18 to 59 (16 November 2020):

The National Department of Social Developments Discussion Paper on Income Support for the Unemployed aged 18 to 59

Summary of Recommendations for South Africa from the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (2019):UN Summary of Recommendations for SA cover image

Breaking the Poverty Trap: Financing a Basic Income Grant in South Africa - Black Sash, 2004

Transforming the Present, Protecting the Future - Report of the Committee of Inquiry in a Comprehensive System of Social Security Reform in South Africa - Prof Taylor, 2002