Social Security and the Just Transition

For the Just Transition in South Africa to be truly just it must account for structural legacy challenges currently facing the country’s economic growth. The policy brief therefore calls for setting of a protection floor through a Universal Basic Income which will protect and ensure vulnerable South Africans do not fall any deeper into poverty and minimize the current inequality gap. To date South Africa has a 42.4% unemployment rate using the expanded definition. South Africa is the most unequal society in the world with the highest GINI coefficient of 0.63. South Africa has 62.1% of young people between the ages of 15 -24 unemployed and 40.7% aged between 25 and 34 out of employment. Black women bear the brunt of unemployment with 48.7 % Black African females currently unemployed. A truly Just Transition in South Africa needs to focus not only on shifting people from brown industries to green industries and reskilling and upskilling but on social protective measures as well that will ensure the protection of incomes and livelihoods while also accounting for the reality that almost half the workforce is currently unemployed, and that some jobs will unfortunately be lost permanently in the transition, adding to the current burden of unemployment and inequality in the country. In addition, transitions by nature and upskilling, and reskilling also come with their own time lags. Therefore, a comprehensive social protection measure needs to be put in place to absorb the immediate shocks to the labour market while affording people the means to meet their daily bread while looking elsewhere for employment. In South Africa as we are entering a transition with a backlog of 42.4% unemployment rate, the measure needs to be comprehensive and wide enough to accommodate these already high unemployment numbers while acting as a buffer against further employment losses. Social security safety nets in the form of income therefore play a significant role as buffers during this time lag and play a crucial role in preventing many from falling into deeper levels of poverty. They also play a catalytic role in assisting people to look for new jobs, starting businesses and meeting their daily food requirements while transitioning.