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Social assistance reform during a period of fiscal stress


  • Servaas van der Berg

    () (Department of Economics, University of Stellenbosch)

  • Krige Siebrits

    () (Department of Economics, University of Stellenbosch)


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.

Suggested Citation

  • Servaas van der Berg & Krige Siebrits, 2010. "Social assistance reform during a period of fiscal stress," Working Papers 17/2010, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:sza:wpaper:wpapers116

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Servaas van der Berg & Krige Siebrits & Bongisa Lekezwa, 2010. "Efficiency and equity effects of social grants in South Africa," Working Papers 15/2010, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
    2. Servaas Van der berg & Megan Louw & Derek Yu, 2008. "Post-Transition Poverty Trends Based On An Alternative Data Source," South African Journal of Economics, Economic Society of South Africa, vol. 76(1), pages 58-76, March.
    3. Servaas van der Berg, 2009. "Fiscal incidence of social spending in South Africa, 2006," Working Papers 10/2009, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
    4. Servaas van der Berg & Megan Louw & Leon du Toit, 2009. "Poverty trends since the transition: What we know," Working Papers 19/2009, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:ilo:ilowps:485483 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Luca Tiberti & Hélène Maisonnave & Margaret Chitiga & Ramos Mabugu & Véronique Robichaud & Stewart Ngandu, 2013. "The Economy-wide Impacts of the South African Child Support Grant: a Micro-Simulation-Computable General Equilibrium Analysis," Cahiers de recherche 1303, CIRPEE.
    3. Armando Barrientos & Sony Pellissery, 2012. "Delivering effective social assistance: does politics matter?," Brooks World Poverty Institute Working Paper Series esid-009-12, BWPI, The University of Manchester.

    More about this item


    Social grants; Effects of social grants; Labour market outcomes; Anti-poverty policy; South Africa;

    JEL classification:

    • H31 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents - - - Household
    • H53 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Government Expenditures and Welfare Programs
    • I38 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Government Programs; Provision and Effects of Welfare Programs
    • J65 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Unemployment Insurance; Severance Pay; Plant Closings

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