Comprehensive Social Protection: Conceptual Framework1
Poverty is not knowing where your next meal is going to come from, and always wondering when the council is going to put your furniture out and always praying that your husband must not lose his job. To me, that is poverty.
(Mrs Witbooi of Philipstown, quoted in Wilson and Ramphele, 1989)
Because we are one anotherвЂ™s keepers, we surely must be haunted by the humiliating suffering which continues to afflict millions of our people. Our nights cannot but be nights of nightmares while millions of our people live in conditions of degrading poverty ... No night can be restful when millions have no jobs, and some are forced to beg, rob and murder to ensure that they and their own do not perish from hunger.
(President Thabo Mbeki, inaugural speech, 1999)
Poverty has various manifestations, including lack of income and productive resources sufficient to ensure sustainable livelihoods; hunger and malnutrition; ill health; limited or lack of access to education and other basic services; increased morbidity and mortality from illness; homelessness and inadequate housing; unsafe environments; and social discrimination and exclusion вЂ¦
(Declaration of World Summit for Social Development, Copenhagen, 1995)
Tackling poverty and deprivation, and its effects, is a critical challenge facing South Africa. The Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) states that:
No political democracy can survive and flourish if the mass of our people remain in poverty, without land, without tangible prospects for a better life. Attacking poverty and deprivation must therefore be the first priority of our democratic government. (RDP: 1.2.9)
This challenge, in its general sense, is of course not a new one. Poverty, unemployment, inequality and generally high levels of vulnerability have been with South Africa throughout its past. However, the coming into being of a democratic dispensation in 1994, followed by a new Constitution (with a Bill of Socio-economic Rights) in 1996, has presented the nation with a unique opportunity to find a path out of this вЂњnightmareвЂќ of poverty and deprivation.
The task of addressing, in the final instance, the reality of poverty and deprivation is generally regarded as a central feature of a countryвЂ™s social security system. In South Africa, however, up to 60 per cent of the poor are not getting any social security transfers at all. Further, the current social security system, for principally reasons of inherited design, is вЂњarchaic, lacks integration, and has many gaps.вЂќ2
Economic globalisation is posing further challenges through changing labour markets and technological challenges. These changes are displacing full-time regular employment and changing the nature of work. Most new jobs being created are in the вЂњinformal sectorвЂќ, or of a part-time, casual, temporary, or home-based nature. There is thus a growing army of unemployed, underemployed and working poor subsisting alongside a relatively stagnant and pressured permanent workforce. The socio-economic challenge facing South Africa is made more ominous by the danger that the dynamics of globalisation may further fasten (at least in the short to medium term) onto these existing relations of vulnerability and exploitation, and exert pressure to intensify them. The consequences would be growing poverty, inequality, social polarisation, job insecurity, and crimeвЂ”and a fraying social fabric.
With this scenario in mind, the 1998 Presidential Job SummitвЂ”comprising government, labour, business, and communityвЂ”agreed to вЂњimplement an effective comprehensive social security system, aimed especially at those living in poverty and the unemployedвЂќ. This agreement aligns well with the needs articulated in the White Paper for Social Welfare (1997) and the South African ConstitutionвЂ™s Bill of Rights (especially S27 (1)(c)).
Moreover, the development paths of African economies, and developing countries in general, require a fresh look at social protection systems more appropriate to their environments and needs. The reality is that in the developing world, formal sector employment may never become the norm that it is in Europe. Yet much of what we refer to as вЂњsocial securityвЂќ derives from the European experience. This European concept, primarily that of contributory social insurance, took as its basic assumption that social security would develop around formal sector employment. As a result, social security is often described as measures to protect against вЂњloss of (formal wage) incomeвЂќ. Such a conception is therefore of limited relevance to Africa and the developing world, where the risk of вЂњinsufficientвЂќ income (formal or informal) is invariably more prevalent than a вЂњlossвЂќ of income.
An appropriate social security concept for South Africa therefore needs to address the realities of our labour market, beyond simply addressing matters of loss of income. In particular an appropriate social security concept needs to address the needs of people without any incomes, with insufficient incomes or who are engaged in informal activities.
In short, South Africa faces two sets of imperatives. The first is the constitutional and democratic imperative, centred on a human rights approach. The Constitution gives socio-economic rights exactly the same status as civil and political rights. In particular, the following aspects are relevant:
The second is the socio-economic imperative, encapsulated in the RDP, to fundamentally improve the living standards of all people in the country. The socio-economic imperative stresses the following:
- Ensure promotion of values of dignity, equality and freedom
- Build participation and voice of the excluded
- Support citizenship claims through equality of administrative justice, access to information, application procedures, adjudication of rights, monitoring of compliance and non-compliance.
Both these sets of imperatives are inter-related and mutually reinforcing. The Constitutional Court, in the matter of The Government of the Republic of South Africa et al v. Grootboom et al, stated:
- Reduction in poverty, deprivation and social inequality
- Increased access to adequate basic services
- Create an environment for sustainable social and economic advancement of all people, and especially the poor and unemployed.
There can be no doubt that human dignity, freedom and equality, the foundational values of our society, are denied to those who have no food, clothing or shelter. Affording socio-economic rights to all people therefore enables them to enjoy the other rights enshrined in [the Constitution].3
Thus there is a clear need to develop a new, comprehensive social security system that supports the achievement of socio-economic rights, and in so doing the overriding values of South African society. In this regard, this chapter of the CommitteeвЂ™s report begins to outline the conceptual framework for such a system.
- The first section provides definitions of poverty, inequality, unemployment and vulnerability, and discusses why these conditions matter. This section reviews the extent of these conditions in South Africa, and puts forward the Committee of InquiryвЂ™s proposed conceptual approach to addressing these various conditions.
- The second section discusses the socio-economic trends and system reforms that are occurring internationally and the various forms of social security that exist in South Africa currently.
- The third section discusses the causality of poverty and other damaging conditions in South Africa. It assesses the extent to which the current social security framework is addressing the inherited and emerging challenges.
- The fourth section discusses the options for a comprehensive social security system for South Africa.
- This chapter draws on the research papers and inputs developed by the various sub-committees of the Committee of Inquiry into a Comprehensive Social Security System. It also includes submissions and contributions made through public hearings.
- Terms of reference of Committee of Inquiry into a Comprehensive Social Security System.
- Constitutional Court of South Africa (Judgement). 4 October 2000