Social grants reach almost one-third of South Africans

19 June 2014

The number of people receiving a social grant from the state grew from 12.7% in 2003 to 30.2% in 2013, while the number of households receiving at least one social grant increased from 29.9% to 45.5% over the same period, according to Statistics South Africa’s latest General Household Survey.

Conducted annually since 2002, the survey measures changes in the living conditions of South African households, including access to services and amenities including housing, water, electricity, food, health care and education.

According to the 2013 survey, released on Wednesday, the province with highest percentage of social grant recipients is the Eastern Cape at 40.3%, followed by Limpopo (38.7%) and KwaZulu‐Natal (37.2%).

South Africa’s social assistance system, one of the largest in Africa, is the government’s most direct means of combating poverty. According to the Treasury’s National Budget Review for 2013/14, spending on social grants accounts for 3% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) and is projected to rise from R118-billion in 2013/14 to R145-billion by 2016.

The Treasury said in February that the number of social grant beneficiaries had doubled over the last decade, from around 7.9-million in 2003 to 15.8-million this year, largely due to the phased extension of the child support grant.

Delivering his Budget speech in Cape Town, then Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan said the number of South Africans who were eligible for grants would increase to 16.5-million over the next three years.

The South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) recently modernised its administration of grants by introducing a biometric card payment system and conducting live certification and re-registration of grant beneficiaries.

The new system aims to minimise fraudulent grant applications and collections and reduce administration costs by distributing grant payments electronically.

The agency’s chief executive, Virginia Peterson, said earlier this year that, through the new system, more than 650 000 social grant recipients had been removed from the grants register, saving the fiscus almost R2-billion, while an additional R800-million in service fees had been saved in this financial year alone.

SAinfo reporter