This afternoon president Cyril Ramahosa’s announced that the Special Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress (SRD) Grant has been extended for 3 months (until the end of January 2021). While the brief extension of the Covid grant is welcome, the implied withdrawal of the Caregiver Grant (after October 2020) displays contempt for women and children. We are also dismayed at the persistence of the insufficient grant amount, the period of extension and the dismal implementation of the SRD grant. In a previous statement signed by over 160 civil society organizations, we called for:
● The extension of the SRD and Caregiver Grants for 5 months until the end of the financial year;
● Increasing both grant amounts to the Food Poverty Line of R585 per month;
● Addressing the exclusion of nearly half of SRD eligible recipients by improving the application and implementation processes, as well as reassessing the eligibility conditions.
These demands are a bare minimum if the president is to honour his commitment today “to do everything in our means to provide support to those in society who continue to face hunger and distress.”
Withdrawal of Caregiver Grant is anti-women
The president noted, “the evidence suggests that the expansion of social protection has kept more than 5 million people above the Food Poverty Line during the past six months.” Yet the Caregiver Grant, which is estimated to account for over half of this poverty reduction by itself, has not been extended. The Caregiver Grant is overwhelmingly received by women (95%), whereas women only make up a third of SRD grant recipients. In total, over 30 million household members will receive less income if the Caregiver Grants are not extended.
The Covid crisis has devastated jobs, worst of all for women. The NIDS-CRAM data shows that employment declined by 20% for women by June, compared to 13% for men. The caregiver grant has provided crucial support to women as the gender wage gap worsens. Nearly half of all Caregiver Grant claimants who had a job in February had lost their job by June – in this context the Caregiver Grant has been an indispensable cushion to job losses. Caregivers are excluded from receiving the SRD grant so women are not only expected to take care of children but they are punished for it. This is testament that, despite the government’s rhetoric in support of women, actual policy is abandoning the most precarious of women and children. In response to the civil society statement calling for the increase and an extension of the grant, the Gender Commission extended its support to the #PayTheGrants campaign. The Commission expressed how vital the grants are for women, especially those experiencing GBV. If government is to align its rhetoric to action that would seriously assist in supporting women, then the Caregiver Grant must be extended and increased immediately.
Figure: Under the current Covid-19 special grants (SRD and Caregiver), 45% of women and 26% of men receive support. If the Caregiver Grant is withdrawn, only 12% of women will receive support whereas men are largely unaffected.
“The condition of women is at the heart of the question of humanity itself, here, there, and everywhere." - Thomas Sankara, assassinated 15 October 1987
Towards a Basic Income Guarantee now!
South Africa has faced a decades-long crisis of poverty, unemployment and inequality – Covid has only made it worse. A remedy, however, has always been clear, since the inequality crisis is a direct historical cause of the poverty and unemployment crisis. Redistribution through income and wealth taxes can fund a permanent social protection system. This is opposed by elites and key government officials who invoke financial constraints and racist tropes that grants make people lazy. The ongoing effects of dehumanising poverty are enormous and evidence from across the world indicates that a Basic Income Guarantee is an effective way to fight abject poverty.
Issued on behalf of the Cash Transfers Working Group by Ihsaan Bassier
Be part of our campaign: Add your voice to this important moment and endorse our previous joint statement, by the C19-People’s Coalition’s Cash Transfers Working Group, Institute for
Economic Justice and Black Sash.