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An Assessment of South Africa’s Social Grant Programme

Since the mid-1990s, new approaches to poverty reduction have been introduced in countries across Africa, Asia and Latin America. Some have involved income transfer programmes that target poorer citizens based on various means tests. Most have targeted female caregivers, primarily mothers. The most expansive child and family grants are in Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Argentina and South Africa, which has put in place the biggest social provision net in Africa. Researchers have studied Brazil and South Africa, two of the countries that have the largest programmes globally. The programmes were all designed to enhance child welfare. But as academics who have studied social policy in these countries, it was important to assess the impact of income transfer programmes that move beyond a focus on child well-being only. In particular, we set out to examine if such transfers also elevated women in their homes, societies and political systems. The study found that there are areas in which both Brazil and South Africa could improve. Cash transfers need to be combined with active labour market policies that boost job creation, livelihoods support and social services to enhance the economic inclusion of women.