The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa provides that everyone has the right to have access to social security including appropriate social assistance for those who are unable to support themselves and their dependants. The State has a further obligation to take reasonable legislative and other measures, within its available resources to achieve the progressive realisation of this right.

Children, like adults have the right of access to social security. The Constitution also affords children the right to social services. The right is entrenched in a cluster of other child economic and social rights found in section 28(1)(c) of the Constitution. This section provides that, every child has the right to basic nutrition, basic health care services and social services.

The White Paper for Social Welfare provides that social security covers a wide variety of public and private measures that provide cash or in kind benefits or both. The provision of these measures takes place, firstly, in the event of an individual’s earning power permanently ceasing, being interrupted, never developing or being exercised only at unacceptable cost and such person being unable to avoid poverty. Secondly, in order to maintain children.

The White Paper defines the domains of social security as poverty prevention and alleviation, social compensation and income distribution. The White Paper further defines social security as policies intended to ensure that ensure that all people have adequate economic and social protection during unemployment, ill health, maternity, child-rearing, widowhood, disability and old age by means of contributory and non-contributory schemes for providing for their basic needs.

At the International arena, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention on Social Security (Minimum Standards) 102 of 1952 defines social security, as the protection which society provides for its members through a series of public measures against economic and social distress that would be caused by the stoppage or substantial reduction of earnings resulting from sickness, maternity, employment injury, unemployment, invalidity, old age and death. These measures include the provision of medical care, and the provision of subsidies for families with children.

The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination puts an obligation on the State to afford everyone the right to social security and prohibit racial discrimination in all its forms. The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women also advocates for the elimination of discrimination against women especially in as far as social security is concerned.

In terms of the White Paper, the social security system in South Africa is based on four fundamental and inter-related elements, namely; private savings, social insurance, social assistance and social relief. Private savings means that people voluntarily save for unexpected contingencies such as disability, retirement and chronic diseases. Social insurance is the joint contribution made by the employers and employees to pension or provident funds. Government may also contribute to social insurance covering accidents at work. Social assistance is the non-contributory and means-tested benefit provided by the State to people with disabilities, elderly people and children. Social relief is the short-term measure to tide people over a particular individual or community crisis, it is non-contributory and it is means-tested.

Little content analysis has been attempted in commentaries in South African literature on the meaning of the right to social services. In the Grootboom case the court held that section 28 (1)(c) of the Constitution should be read in conjunction with section 28 (1)(b). These sections, according to the court, imply that parents have the primary responsibility to provide economic and social rights of their children and that the State only intervenes where the guardian/parents fail or are unable to provide for children. The primary responsibility to take care of children thus lies with their parents. Children’s growth, development and well-being depend largely on the ability of their parents or guardians’ ability to provide for them.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) provides that every child has the right to benefit from social security, including social insurance. The State is thus under an obligation to take the necessary measures to achieve the full realisation of the right in accordance with national law. The CRC further provides that every child has the right to a standard of living adequate for its physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development.

Article 9 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights provides that State parties should recognise the right of everyone to social security including social insurance. This provision binds the child’s economic security with that of their adults. The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child ratified in 2000 makes provision for the survival and development of a child.

Despite these provisions, the reality is that the majority of children in South Africa live in poverty; even those in parental care face the same hardships as those without parental care. This is to a large extent caused by the fact that many parents are unable to provide their children with basic necessities. Infant mortality rate is also high as is malnutrition. The number of child headed households is increasing at an alarming speed due to the impact and effects of HIV/AIDS. Children heading households have been tasked with the huge responsibility of taking care of their siblings. These children and others such as those with disabilities and chronic illnesses; those living on the streets; child offenders/children in conflict with the law as well as refugees and asylum seekers are amongst the most vulnerable and marginalized.

To ensure that the right to have access to social security including social assistance in appropriate circumstances is realised and enjoyed by the majority of South Africans, section 184(1) and (3) of the Constitution requires the South African Human Rights Commission (hereinafter, the Commission) to monitor and observe the realisation of this right and other economic and social rights provided by the Constitution. The Commission has been discharging this constitutional mandate since 1997 and has published four reports.

In its 4th Economic and Social Rights Report, launched on 22 April 2003, the Commission, while acknowledging the good efforts made by government in the realisation of social security rights raised concerns about the current fragmented and incoherent social security system inherited from the previous regime that needs to be attended to as a matter of urgency.

It is in this regard that the Commission welcomes the Taylor Report and the opportunity to make this submission to the Portfolio Committee. The Commission hopes that its work on monitoring social security rights and other related economic and social rights and its comments on the Taylor Report will help the Committee on its work towards the development of a comprehensive social security system for our country.




In the concluding remarks of the chapter on the constitutional framework of the Taylor Report, it is highlighted that there is unequal, exclusionary and inequitable structure of the current social security system. The Taylor Report recommends that social security policies and programmes must be reasonable both in their conception and their implementation. However the Report in its recommendations does not come out clearly on how past inequalities could be addressed and how there can be a comprehensive social security system that is not exclusionary or fragmented.

While the Taylor Report makes the following correct position:

" It is not only the state that is responsible for the provision of social security, but that the responsibility and/or involvement of family structures, other (non-state) providers and private provision has to be factored in, acknowledged, supported/protected, and where necessary regulated."

It should be noted that the State has an obligation to ensure that everyone has access to social security by respecting, protecting, promoting and fulfilling this right. In fulfilling its obligation, the State has to take reasonable legislative and other measures within its available resources, to achieve the progressive realisation of the right of access to social security.

The Commission recommends that the State should afford everyone the right of access to social security. The Commission also recommends that South Africa should ratify the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights as soon as possible. This Covenant can contribute towards the formulation of social security legislation policies and programmes.




The State faces problems with the implementation of poverty alleviation programmes and this hampers the process of poverty reduction. The problems with the implementation of policies, programmes and projects are caused by, amongst other things, human and financial constraints as well as corruption and fraud.

The Commission supports the recommendation made by the Taylor Report that the State should introduce benchmarks to monitor progress in alleviating poverty. This is supported by the experiences of the Commission in its monitoring of social security rights where many relevant government departments do not provided adequate information to the Commission. In this regard, the Commission in its 4th Economic and Social Rights Report stated:

"The level of reporting by the various government departments has been very poor in the outcomes (indicators) section. The information provided does not assist in assessing whether the right has been progressively realised or not.

The creation of indicators provides an opportunity to identify problems as well as progress. The question that arises is how do departments measure progress in as far as realising the right to social security without adequate indicators of performance. The instituted policy, legislation or budgetary measures may not necessarily realise the right of access to social security unless there are indicators that cold be used to determine this realisation of lack thereof. Indicators serve as an indication of whether the right has been realised or not, and whether the instituted measures have a positive or negative impact on the lives of people or persons accessing the right to social security.

Furthermore, the purpose of indicators is to capture the willingness and the capacity of government to protect and promote human rights, Governments ought to monitor the realisation of human rights, and indicators are designed to monitor the performance of government. Indicators are a useful tool for assessing the implementation of rights entrenched in the Constitution and international instruments.

Reasonableness and effectiveness of instituted measures is weighed against information provided in the outcome (indicators) section. The outcome section should serve as proof that the instituted policy measures, legislation and budgetary allocation are sufficient and reasonable and provide effective realisation of the right to social security. Failure to respond to the outcome section is an indication that the instituted measures are not reasonable and effective, and that the state is not willing to realise the right to social security."

In addition to the above recommendation, the Commission also recommends that the State should introduce mechanisms that will ensure that poverty alleviation programmes are implemented effectively, so that the intended beneficiaries have access to the programmes.

It is stated that the existing social security programme (social assistance) does not adequately address the problem of poverty because half of the poor live in households that receive no social security benefits at all and the rest remain poor in spite of the benefits they receive. The statistics furnished in the Commission’s 4th Economic and Social Rights Report support this concern. In this regard, the statistic for the financial year 2001/2 were:
8 207 770 children were in households with income below the poverty line. But only 1 882 126 children were assisted through social assistance
While 3 308 467 children were eligible for Child Support Grants, only 1 574 927 received the grant
16 837 214 people had income below the poverty line even though only 4 374 817 people received social security (social assistance)
23 819 458 people had no source of income

The current forms of social assistance grants serve as the only source of income for many households. There are also households which do not benefit from the social assistance grants mainly because, none of the members of these household qualify for the social assistance grants. While the figures for 2002/3 will show some improvement, the above figures attest to this point.

The Taylor Report is of the view that minimum support in the form of social assistance is necessary to reduce poverty. The Report further recommends that any income support grant be set at a level that would address destitution in the medium term and absolute poverty in the long term. The Commission supports this view.


On this issue, the Taylor Report provides:

"The Committee understood the Basic Income Grant (BIG) as a general social assistance grant for all South Africans. The grant is meant for people currently not receiving social assistance. The Basic Income Grant will be paid to all South Africans (those that qualify). In the case of children, the grant will be paid to the primary care giver."

The Taylor Report notes that the conditions for an immediate implementation of the BIG do not exist. The Report therefore recommends the gradual development of the comprehensive and integrated income support that can underpin South Africa’s comprehensive social protection system.

As the BIG will not be immediately implemented, the Report does not come up with any recommendations on what happens to persons who are not covered by the social assistance safety net. In as far as children are concerned, the Report has not made it clear on how children who are not benefiting from the CSG, will benefit from BIG should the BIG be implemented. There is a possibility that these children would be disadvantaged because children who are beneficiaries of the Child Support Grant (CSG) currently receive R160 per month and they will also benefit from the BIG while other children will benefit only once. Children who benefit from the CSG should not be targeted as beneficiaries of the BIG. However, the BIG should target persons between the ages of 18 and above who have no access to any form of social assistance.

The Commission supports the recommendation that the CSG be extended to all children so as to afford every child access to social security. The CSG is already in place and it is effectively being implemented with few fiscal and administrative constraints.

The amount and manner of the support for the BIG needs to be revisited. What cannot be disputed, however, is that there are millions of poor South Africans who need to have access to social security and appropriate social assistance, which the state is obliged by the Constitution to realise.



The recommendations of the Report in this regard are confusing and contradictory. For example, the Report recommends that there be an appropriate form of social security. The Report further proposes that the principle of social insurance should be extended to include as many of the employed as possible. However, there is likelihood that certain groups of workers will remain excluded from social insurance schemes such as the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) because of their location in the workforce. By the same token the Report proposes other arrangements for these workers. However, the arrangements are not mentioned and outlined in the report.

Everyone has the right of access to social security; the Constitution has not made a distinction between those formally employed and those who are informally employed. Workers in the informal sector of employment have been denied the right of access to social security (social insurance). The Commission thus finds it disturbing that the recommended appropriate form of social security is exclusionary.


The unemployment fund benefits are only available to workers who contribute to the fund. Workers who are mostly in the informal sector are excluded from contributing to the fund. The taxi-drivers, street vendors and others who are informally employed are workers in their own right. These workers, like all other workers, have the right of access to social security.

The initial aim of the UIF dating back to the 1966 Act was to provide protection against social distress, caused by the temporary loss of employment and not indefinite unemployment. South Africa is faced with the problem of persons who are unemployed and have no source of income and as a result find themselves in dire poverty. The affected persons are mostly between the ages of 18 and above. Contributors to the UIF could only claim for six months (182 days) under the 1966 Act, however the 2001 Act in section 13(3) provides for 238 days benefits. The short period does not cover persons who face unemployment for a long period.

The Commission is of the view that the UIF should be extended to a period longer than 238 days. The long-term objective entails that the contributors to the fund should be able to benefit if they are unemployed. The fund will be structured in a manner that it includes joint compulsory contribution from the workers, employers and the government.

The Commission recommends that the right of access to social security be afforded to everyone. After all, the Taylor Report Committee was tasked with the development of a comprehensive, affordable system of social security and improving the access and quality of services under the existing system of social assistance.



The Commission welcomes and fully supports the recommendations. The fact that the CSG should be extended to all children including asylum seekers and refugees is reflected in the third and fourth economic and social rights report. The Constitution defines a child as a person under the age of 18 years. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) recommended that South Africa expand the CSG.


Children without parental care due to HIV/AIDS are left in the care of the extended family. As a result of the increase in the number of AIDS related deaths, the extended family becomes more extended and unable to provide the traditional support and protection to children. "The United Nations Children’s Fund reported in July that AIDS was pushing a large number of children into hazardous labour even in South Africa. A June 2001 report by the Mandela Children’s Fund found that a number of young girls were forced to engage in prostitution." These children engage themselves in income-generating activities to support their families and in the process; they become vulnerable to exploitation and worst forms of child labour. Acting as a breadwinner for their homes some are even unable to go to school because they are unable to pay school fees.


The report does not highlight the plight of children who live in the streets, who are not assisted by Community Based Organisations (CBOs) and Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs). These children do not have access to the CSG and all the other forms of assistance such as the poverty alleviation programmes and projects that are afforded to all the children in the country. These children are unable to benefit from the Primary School Nutrition Programmes because they do not go to school and they cannot even access basic health care services. They cannot access the CSG because there is no caregiver and they also do not have the necessary documentation, such as amongst other things (birth certificates).

The CSG targets children in parental care and those without parental care are denied access to the CSG. The Foster Care Grant is also not easy to access. Even though most of the children who live in the streets are orphans, to qualify for the grant, they require a court order to place them in the care of foster parents.

The Commission recommends that the CSG be extended to all children between the ages of 0 and 18. Children in all situations and circumstances should have access to all forms of social assistance afforded to children. There should be ways of ensuring that children living in the streets and children who head households all enjoy the right of access to social security and social assistance.


The Commission has observed that the gaps within the current social security system have been outlined in the report; the key problems have been discussed. However, recommendations do not address some of these problems. The Taylor Report has not adequately developed, formulated or initiated a comprehensive social security system in the report.

The report is silent about the principle of self-sufficiency, which is one of the approaches to financing social security. Self-sufficiency entails that where possible; the future beneficiaries should be encouraged to make provisions towards their own future needs. The social security system in South Africa has four elements, namely; private savings, social insurance, social assistance and social relief. The report did not give adequate attention to all these four elements of the system. The report did not address the issue of private insurance and did not provide measures or recommendations, which will enable everybody, access to social insurance and private savings.

The summary of the Commission’s recommendations is as follows:
The CSG should be extended to cover all children from 0-18 years;
The BIG should be introduced to alleviate the plight of poverty;
Poverty alleviation policies and programmes should be implemented effectively and diligently;
There should be mechanisms in place to address current problems that make the implementation of poverty alleviation programmes impossible or difficult;
South Africa should ratify the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; and
South Africa should adhere to the constitutional provisions as well as international instruments.

In conclusion, the Commission is of the view that South Africa’s social security system should adhere to international norms and standards as provided for by various international human rights instruments such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child and many others. It is also important that this system should be geared towards ensuring that South Africa meets the UN Millennium Development Goals, especially the goal on the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger.

In the spirit of the Constitutional Court in the Grootboom judgment that State measures that do not respond to the needs of the most desperate members of our society, the poor and the marginalized, will not meet the required test of reasonableness and thus risk being declared unconstitutional. The same may apply to a social security system that ignores the plight of millions of poor South Africans not covered by current system or not adequately covered. It is thus important that an appropriate solution is found soon and the Taylor Report constitutes a step in the right direction.

The South African Human Rights Commission
2 June 2003

Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger

Reduce by half the proportion of people living on less than a dollar a day
Reduce by half the proportion of people who suffer from hunger

Press Releases
NY, 1 October 2002
United Nations Secretary General urges countries to turn Summit committments to action

Live Webcast: 10:30am EST, 1st October 2002 - Press Conference: UN Secretary-General presents his first annual report on implementing the Millennium Declaration

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Implementation of the Millennium Declaration
Fact Sheet 1: The MDG and the Role of the United Nations

Fact Sheet 2: Country-by-Country reports

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Goal 1 | Goal 1/2

Goal 3/4 | Goal 5/6

Goal 7 | Goal 8

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Secretary General's Follow-up report

Millennium Declaration

Towards Implementation

Secretary General's Report

Achieve universal primary education

Ensure that all boys and girls complete a full course of primary schooling

Promote gender equality and empower women

Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education preferably by 2005, and at all levels by 2015

Reduce child mortality

Reduce by two thirds the mortality rate among children under five

Improve maternal health

Reduce by three quarters the maternal mortality ratio

Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases

Halt and begin to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS
Halt and begin to reverse the incidence of malaria and other major diseases

Ensure environmental sustainability

Integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programmes; reverse loss of environmental resources
Reduce by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water
Achieve significant improvement in lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers, by 2020

Develop a global partnership for development

Develop further an open trading and financial system that is rule-based, predictable and non-discriminatory. Includes a commitment to good governance, development and poverty reduction—nationally and internationally
Address the least developed countries’ special needs. This includes tariff- and quota-free access for their exports; enhanced debt relief for heavily indebted poor countries; cancellation of official bilateral debt; and more generous official development assistance for countries committed to poverty reduction
Address the special needs of landlocked and small island developing States
Deal comprehensively with developing countries’ debt problems through national and international measures to make debt sustainable in the long term
In cooperation with the developing countries, develop decent and productive work for youth
In cooperation with pharmaceutical companies, provide access to affordable essential drugs in developing countries
In cooperation with the private sector, make available the benefits of new technologies—especially information and communications technologies

By the year 2015, all 191 United Nations Member States have pledged to meet the above goals