Social policy and public expenditure
Higher-than-inflation increases in student fees since 2009 often are blamed on declining government subsidies to universities. This is not entirely correct, if one considers real per-student subsidies. Fee increases resulted mainly from cost pressures faced by universities due to growing student numbers and a weakening rand. These pressures will not disappear. Eliminating government wastage is not a durable solution and difficult choices cannot be avoided. So, who should pay for increasing costs, students or government – or which combination of these?
South Africa is the most unequal country in the world in terms of people’s income. But, two decades after apartheid’s demise, why has our urban and rural geography changed so little – and how does this reinforce inequality? This was the question at the centre of a recent REDI workshop on spatial inequality that brought together researchers, policymakers, and planners working in both urban and rural spaces.
The building of large numbers of housing units in isolated greenfield locations has had detrimental side effects on our cities over the last two decades. Yet a series of new megaprojects, designed to accelerate the delivery of housing, is now on the cards. Because they are to be built on cheap peripheral land, these schemes threaten to reinforce urban fragmentation, inefficiency and exclusion.
Although many children are maltreated at home, we know little about the effects of abuse on long-term child development. This article explores the association between different ways in which children are maltreated and two educational outcomes (numeracy test scores and dropout). Children who are physically maltreated (e.g. hit hard) regularly suffer severe adverse consequences in terms of their numeracy test scores and probability of dropout – and hence their chances of employment and higher earnings.
If the National Development Plan is to be effectively implemented, we need clarity about the mechanisms through which growth and redistribution can be jointly advanced. Priorities include social security reform and quality improvements in social services, urban development, housing and public-transport investment. Expanding employment opportunities is the most pressing challenge, requiring policies that might include: support for labour-intensive industry and agriculture, small enterprise and informal sector development, well-targeted skills programmes, and wage or employment subsidies. Recognising the complementarity between redistributive and growth-enhancing measures is essential.
The child support grant has been praised as one of the government’s most successful anti-poverty programmes. The rapid extension of the grant increases the importance of ascertaining its effectiveness: does the child support grant make any real difference to the lives of the millions of children who receive it? Using the 2008 NIDS data, a recently published study identifies a significant positive impact on recipient children’s health, nutrition and education as a result of receiving the grant.
Former homeland areas continue to have significantly higher levels of deprivation and poverty than the rest of South Africa. Of all the former homeland areas, the erstwhile Transkei in the Eastern Cape has the highest levels of deprivation (measured using the Index of Multiple Deprivation for 2011) as well as income poverty. Indeed, the deprivation gap between former homelands and the rest of South Africa has not declined in the period 2001 to 2011.
Amidst a decline in general poverty rates since 2000, women and people living in female-headed households still are significantly worse off. Women are up to 30% poorer than men on average. There is an even larger poverty gap between female- and male-headed households – a difference of as much as 100%, despite improved education, health and basic services. Better health, water and sanitation services, especially in rural areas, should narrow these gaps significantly.
Access to a comprehensive set of basic infrastructure services is essential to attain social development goals and ensure equal opportunity for all people to participate in a country’s economy. This article investigates whether the delivery of basic infrastructure has a significant positive effect on growth and development in South Africa and whether the effect is different for urban and rural municipalities. A complex picture emerges, necessitating care in making such infrastructure investment decisions.
The measurement of poverty should include dimensions of well-being that cannot be measured in monetary terms. Data on health, education and standards of living can be used to calculate a so-called Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI). Results suggest that both the prevalence and the intensity of multidimensional poverty fell significantly from 1993 to 2010. The decline in multidimensional poverty is much greater than the decline in poverty as measured in terms of income and/or expenditure. Better social services and infrastructure have played a large role.