President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the nation on Monday evening with many South Africans anticipating the announcement of a public holiday to celebrate the recent success of the Springboks at the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France. While the president did declare a public holiday, they also took the opportunity to shed light on the impact of social support programmes.
One of these social programmes is the implementation of the Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grant. The SRD grant was introduced in 2020 to assist unemployed individuals whose prospect of finding employment was extremely unlikely due to lockdowns.
The SRD grant also referred to as the R350 grant due to the amount of money received by its beneficiaries, has become an important social support mechanism for millions of people. Currently, between 7 million and 8 million people receive SRD Grant payments monthly.
However, the implementation of the SRD grant is set to conclude in March 2024. It is unknown whether the grant will be extended beyond 2024 as the government grapples with fiscal constraints.
Impact of the SRD grant
Ramaphosa says the grant has provided support for millions of vulnerable people and kept them out of extreme poverty.
The special SRD Grant known as the R350 grant, which we introduced in 2020, has kept millions of people out of poverty and continues to provide much-needed support for those who are unemployed.
Presidential Youth Employment Stimulus
The president also took the opportunity to emphasise the importance of government spending on programmes that assist individuals in gaining employment. This includes the President's Employment Stimulus Programme.
The Presidential Employment Stimulus has created over 1.2 million opportunities since its establishment. This represents the largest expansion of public employment in South Africa’s history.
This programme saw young people become employed as teaching and general assistants in schools around South Africa. However, the fourth and final phase of the programme recently concluded.
This is concerning as the programme was critical in providing opportunities for youth in the country. Approximately 60% of youth aged between 15 and 24 years old are currently unemployed.
Stakeholders are calling on the government to extend the programme as they fear there will never again be a programme effectively implemented at this large scale to tackle unemployment.
Youth are encouraged to register for employment opportunities on the SAYouth platform. The president revealed that more than 4 million young people have registered on the SAYouth online platform, and more than 1 million of these have been able to access opportunities for learning and earning.
Every one of those jobs created is a reason for hope. Every person who no longer lives in poverty is a reason for hope.
Future Of These Programmes
Ramphosa says these programmes have not only reduced poverty but have enabled recipients to search for jobs and to engage in other economic activity to support their livelihoods.
As we move to target spending on programmes that are working for the poor, we need to acknowledge that our social grants, including the SRD Grant, as well as our public employment programmes, are vital in supporting those who are vulnerable.
All eyes will therefore be on Minister of Finance Enoch Godongwana who will provide more details of these and other government spending priorities during the Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement on Wednesday.