The economic and social crisis induced by Covid-19 is unfolding in different ways across the country. New evidence from the NIDS-CRAM survey reveals that the pandemic has widened pre-existing inequalities between cities and rural areas. Within cities it has magnified the gap between suburbs, townships and informal settlements. A premature withdrawal of government relief schemes could aggravate the hardship and suffering in poor communities that have come to rely on these resources following the jobs slump.
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.
It is important to know whether a social grant such as the old age pension eases financial constraints in rural areas, thereby allowing young men to migrate to urban areas for work – or whether these grants encourage idleness and dependency. This study finds no evidence of the latter. Instead, for young rural males there is an increase in their chances of migrating and finding work when a member of the household starts receiving the pension. Notably, these effects are only present for young men with at least a matric.
How did hunger levels in the former homelands catch up with the rest of South Africa? A hundred years after the Land Act of 1913
A century after the Land Act of 1913, and 20 years after the abolition of homelands, differences in poverty persist between the former homeland areas and the rest of South Africa. However, remarkably, hunger gaps between the former homelands and other regions have been eliminated in the post-apartheid era. The main cause has been the disproportionately high number of persons eligible for social grants in the former homelands, rather than increased food production or higher labour market incomes due to land reform.