A case for Basic Income Support

The Covid-19 pandemic has had devastating financial consequences on many households in Mzansi [1]. The cost of food continues to rise [2], unemployment is rising and many people are unable to generate income. This situation is going to continue to worsen and many households will continue to go hungry or go into debt unless they have money to provide for themselves and have the dignity to improve their lives.

Basic Income Support is an intervention that seeks to get cash in people’s hands so that they can have the means to make economic choices. It is necessary to mitigate this crisis. In an unequal country like ours, social assistance is crucial as most people are locked out of the economic activity that helps them not starve and improve the quality of their lives. It is a duty the government cannot escape, as they work on other measures like job creation and economy stimulation. 

Black Sash has recently released a report titled Basic Income Grant: A case for South Africa [3], calling for a Basic Income Grant (BIG) for Mzansi households now, as we battle the triple threat of poverty, inequality and unemployment. And the reality facing us is that the situation will not improve anytime soon, as can be seen in the charts below from researcher Engenas Senona [4]. Over half of South Africans are living in poverty, unemployment has never been higher and our country is the most unequal of any in the world.

So what is a Basic Income Grant?

This schematic below found in Black Sash’s presentation [4] provides a helpful clarification of the term:  

Essentially Basic Income tries to level the playing field by giving a monthly cash injection to a certain set of individuals, with the aim of helping them have the means to have access to a basic living standard. It is a move towards a Universal Basic Grant, where everyone gets this cash injection unconditionally, i.e. without any requirements or qualifications.

Studies have shown that when basic income was provided in other countries, it improved the wellbeing and confidence of recipients, and did not discourage them from looking for employment [5]. Income support for those aged 18-59 with no or little income is a critical step towards the government’s implementation of a universal basic income grant for all citizens to ensure that all who live in South Africa have an adequate standard of living.

Poverty is a man-made humanitarian crisis and to eradicate it is going to require intentional systems that help elevate those living under it’s might. The time for action is always NOW.

To add your name to the call for Basic Income Support for those aged 18- 59, please click here

[1] South Africa faces mass hunger if efforts to offset impact of COVID-19 are eased, Gabrielle Wills, Leila Patel, Servaas Van der berg, for The Conversation Africa, August 2020

[2] Food costs have risen 30% since coronavirus lockdown began, Kevin Brandt for EWN, July 2020

[3] https://www.blacksash.org.za/images/campaigns/basicincomesupport/BasicIncomeSupport2020.pdf

[4] http://blacksash.org.za/images/campaigns/basicincomesupport/BISforSouthAfrica.pdf

[5] Universal basic income seems to improve employment and well-being, Donna Lu for New Scientist , May 2020