There was a panel discussion on social welfare, documented here Are We Winning 2008.

Perhaps the most illuminating comment of the above discussion was that there was ‘anger’ at the lack of statistics.  The Direct Democracy Forum’s (the DDF’s) experience echoes that sentiment.

There seems to be a perception that under apartheid there was adequate provision of social welfare services for the white community.  We would contest that and suggest that social welfare has always been the Cinderella of government services.  It may have been better organised for the white community but it was seriously flawed in terms of value.  Put bluntly, the Nationalist government was parsimonious at best when it came to supporting the needy.  The DDF believe that if we can effectively identify the needy and put the rest to work, the burden on society will be decreased significantly and the real benefits due to the truly needy can be improved significantly.

There seem to be two diametrically opposite views on the state of social welfare in South Africa today.  Perhaps this is best illustrated in a single article Boost the Supply Side:  On the one hand  “President Jacob Zuma had emphasised that South Africa was not actually a welfare state but was aiming to be a developmental state in which people must pay their way” while on the other hand Mike Schussler, the chief executive said “South Africa was already “the biggest welfare state in the world”. Just 2.1 million taxpayers of the 5.9 million personal taxpayers paid 90 percent of the tax. With 13 million employed – slightly more than the 12.1 million reported to be employed in the budget – there were 15 million on social welfare grants. This meant that each taxpayer was paying for three on social welfare, which was simply not sustainable”. (5,9 million pay for 15 million – not quite 1:3, but near enough).  But that is probably being unfair.  If we take those contributing 90% of the tax, it would be more correct to say that 2.1 million taxpayers support the 15 million on social welfare grants.  That is more like 1 tax contributor to 7.5 social welfare recipients.  That’s not 1:3 it’s more like 1:7.5.  

In support of Mike Schussler the web site Parent 24, quoting the SA Institute of Race Relations South Africa Survey (2012), highlighting that from 2001 to 2011 social grant beneficiaries rose from 3.5 million to 14,9 million beneficiaries and child support beneficiaries from 0.8 million to 10.4 million beneficiaries.  Contributing is 2008’s government decision to increase the age of child grant recipients from 13 to 18 years and an evidenced practice of young girls falling pregnant in order to receive the child support benefits.  Admittedly while child support grants equal 70% of all beneficiaries, at R260 per month it only represents 36% of all grants whereas old age beneficiaries at only 18% of all beneficiaries, at R1140 per month, this represents 39% of all grants.  It is thought that by 2013, child support beneficiaries will rise to 11.3 million beneficiaries.