Under what conditions? Social Security for children in South Africa

This paper will present a case study of an unconditional cash transfer programme – the Child Support Grant in South Africa – and current attempts to introduce conditions. Issues raised by this case study will be used to shed light on debates about the applicability of conditionality in cash transfers for children and families.

South Africa is something of an exceptional case in some respects for a developing country, but not in all. One notable feature is the extent of its social security provision, with non-contributory social assistance going to almost a quarter of the population. The second is that it is a middle-income country with almost no debt to international finance organisations – the IMF or World Bank. The entire noncontributory cash grant system is funded from tax revenue. The third is the extreme inequality in the country, and the very high rates of unemployment and consequent levels of absolute poverty. This provides the political and economic logic for social security spending. In common with its neighbouring countries, South Africa has amongst the world’s highest HIV prevalence rates, and two decades into the epidemic, has a drastically reduced life expectancy and rapidly rising burdens of care.