SOCIAL PROTECTION SERIES POLICY BRIEF #1
INTRODUCING A UNIVERSAL BASIC INCOME GUARANTEE FOR SOUTH AFRICA
TOWARDS INCOME SECURITY FOR ALL
The introduction of a Universal Basic Income Guarantee (UBIG) is one of the best tools available to reduce poverty, hunger, and destitution. The South African Government has a constitutional obligation to progressively realise the universal right to social security or social assistance within available resources. It is necessary to introduce social security for adults (18‑59 years) who currently are not covered. This is particularly urgent with labour markets and incomes depressed.
The possibility of implementing a UBIG for all adults, adult informal-sector workers, the adult unemployed, and adults who are not economically active is explored. It is argued that a universal unconditional grant is preferable due to its reach and ease of administration. A number of levels are considered with the food poverty Line (R585), lower-bound poverty line (R840) and upper bound poverty line (R1 268) considered as viable starting points. The costs are given for different population groups at these and other levels.
A series of progressive taxation measures are discussed, including the implementation of a Social Security Tax and a Wealth Tax. The value recouped through VAT is also considered. In addition, the importance of maintaining and increasing the Social Relief of Distress “COVID-19 grant” and Caregiver’s Allowance, or incorporating caregivers into the COVID-19 grant, is discussed. Together these grants rescue 5.7 million people from food poverty.
Government can begin to work towards implementing a UBIG immediately.
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