NOTICE 1108 OF 1997



Principles, guidelines, recommendations, proposed policies and 
programmes for developmental social welfare in South Africa.

Department of Welfare Private Bag X901 Pretoria 0001 Republic of South Africa


Chapter 1: South African Social Welfare Context

Part I Policy framework
Chapter 2: Proposed National Developmental Social Welfare Strategy
Chapter 3: Institutional Arrangements
Chapter 4: Human Resource Development
Chapter 5: Legislation
Chapter 6: Finance and Budgeting

Part II Delivery System
Chapter 7: Social Security
Chapter 8: Enhancing Social Integration

Annexure: Legislation


1. South Africans are called upon to participate in the development of an equitable, people-centred, democratic and appropriate social welfare system. The goal of developmental social welfare is a humane, peaceful, just and caring society which will uphold welfare rights, facilitate the meeting of basic human needs, release people's creative energies, help them achieve their aspirations, build human capacity and self-reliance, and participate fully in all spheres of social, economic and political life.

2. South Africans will be afforded the opportunity to play an active role in promoting their own well-being and in contributing to the growth and development of our nation. The challenge facing the welfare system is to devise appropriate and integrated strategies to address the alienation and the economic and social marginalisation of vast sectors of the population who are living in poverty, are vulnerable, and have special needs. An intersectoral response is needed within Government and between Government and civil society to adequately address welfare needs.
A further challenge is to address past disparities and fragmentation of the institutional framework in the delivery of welfare services.

3. The Ministry for Welfare and Population Development is committed to the continuity of existing services whilst at the same time re-orientating such services towards developmental approaches. The Ministry will strive to achieve the above social goals in a collaborative partnership with individuals, organisations in civil society and the private sector in keeping with the values, goals and priorities of the Reconstruction and Development Programme.

4. The approach and strategies contained in this White Paper for Social Welfare will inform the restructuring of services and social welfare programmes in both the public and the private sectors. The identified principles, guidelines and recommendations for developmental social welfare policies and programmes will be implemented progressively. A five-year strategic plan of action will be developed. This plan will provide details on goals, objectives, activities, timeframes, progress indicators, costing, and the parties responsible for the implementation of social welfare programmes.

5. This White Paper has been drawn up with the full participation of the stakeholders in the welfare field. It is a negotiated policy framework and strategy, and it charts a new path for social welfare in the promotion of national social development. The proposed direction of the White Paper is in line with the approach advocated by the United Nations World Summit for Social Development, held on 6 to 12 March 1995.




Economic growth and income distribution

1. South Africa has experienced declining economic growth rates over the past two decades, with the average annual growth rate of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) falling below the annual population growth rate.

This situation has resulted in a decrease in per capita income, and increasing poverty and pressure on the welfare system to meet basic human needs. Inflation has affected the capacity of poor families to meet their needs.

Further, low levels of economic growth and income are also associated with low levels of savings. This means that when individuals and families become vulnerable, they have limited resources on which to draw.

Extreme inequality in the distribution of income exists among racial groups and households. The poorest 40% of households in South Africa earn less than 6% of total national income, whilst the richest 10% earn more than half of the national income.

Great poverty exists alongside extreme wealth. About a third (35,2%) of all South African households, amounting to 18 million people, are living in poverty. African households, households in rural areas, especially those headed by women in rural areas, are the most affected. Over half (54%) of all South Africa's children live in poverty 1.

Unequal income distribution has severely hampered development, particularly that of people in rural areas, who are generally poorer than their urban counterparts. In 1993 the average per capita income of rural Africans was only R151 per month, compared to metropolitan incomes of R335.

Rural households rely mainly on remittances and state social grants for income. Remittances make up a tenth of household income and social grants account for about a quarter of household income in rural areas. However, many rural households and their extended families do not have access to reliable remittances, wages and/or resources to generate enough support for themselves.


2. South Africa is characterised by large-scale unemployment in the formal sector of the economy.

The formal economy created an estimated 350000 employment opportunities between 1980 and 1991, while the extended labour force grew by 4,5 million people. During this time, the number of people who were unemployed or in the informal sector (32%) more than doubled, while up to 20% of the extended labour force had to make a living from subsistence agriculture.

Unemployment has been severe among women, especially those in rural areas, as well as among young people under the age of 24. Nearly a third of black people in this group were unemployed, as were just under 20% of those aged 25 to 34. Unemployment among people with disabilities is high.

The formal sector of the economy is becoming less Labour-intensive and can only provide employment for half of the labour force. It needs fewer, but better skilled people than in the past to produce the same level of output. The labour force is relatively young and has a low overall skills level owing to poor educational opportunities.

The South African economy has not been able to supply sufficient employment opportunities for all who want to work. Unemployment has increased the vulnerability of many households. In addition, the market also makes little provision for those with special needs, such as people with disabilities. Because people do not have secure and sustainable livelihoods, many turn to the welfare system for income maintenance and social support.

Access to social services

3. Poverty cannot be measured by income alone, nor can an anti-poverty programme only address income enhancing measures. This necessitates a multi-sectoral and an integrated approach.

Education is one of the most important factors determining employment and thus income. There is a close association between poverty and a lack of education. Illiteracy varies from 27% in metropolitan area,s to 50% in rural areas. Illiteracy among coloureds (68%) and Africans (61%) in rural areas is higher than the national average. The lack of education of the head of a household is closely correlated with poverty in households.

Of the 7,1 million people between the ages of 16 and 24 years, approximately 2,1 million have not matriculated and do not attend school. For more than a third, this lack of education is due either to a lack of money or to family responsibilities. The lack of education, employment opportunities and access to services has deprived many people of their dignity and the ability to look after themselves. These factors necessitate the need for additional support mechanisms to allow people to live in some degree of comfort and security.

Access to social welfare

4. South Africa has embarked on the arduous task of socio-political and economic reform. While sound economic policies and a well-functioning labour market are essential for growth and employment generation, by themselves, they are not sufficient. To reap the benefits, South Africa must invest in people; that is, develop the human capital which is essential for increasing productivity and moving people out of poverty. Internationally, the strategy that has proved most effective in improving economic and social well-being consists of three elements: Labour-absorbing growth, equitable investments in education, health care and social support for poor and vulnerable groups.

5. Welfare support limits the impact of market and policy failures. It also eases the transition experienced by many workers owing to changes in work and living conditions, as well as the weakening of social and family networks in providing social support and security.

Social welfare policies and programmes which provide for cash transfers, social relief, and enabling and developmental services ensure that people have adequate economic and social protection during times of unemployment, ill-health, maternity, child-rearing, widowhood, disability, old age and so on. Social welfare programmes of this nature contribute to human resource development by enabling impoverished households to provide adequate care for their members, especially children and those who are vulnerable. When such programmes are combined with capacity building, people can be released from the poverty trap.

6. Further, many people experience difficulties in managing life situations and transitions, which in turn impact on their social functioning. Social welfare programmes to promote optimal social functioning also contribute to human resource development and social stability.

7. There are, however, certain welfare programmes which do not necessarily benefit human capital development but are an expression of a country's commitment to human and social rights. These programmes are protective and developmental services for people with special needs.

Welfare programmes do not only contribute towards enhancing social welfare through human capital development and the alleviation of poverty, but also through the provision of merit goods. These programmes are an expression of a country's commitment to human and social rights.

The policies of the past have resulted in social disintegration and consequent social problems. Social we fare services could contribute significantly to enhancing social integration.

Social and economic development

8. Social and economic development are two interdependent and mutually reinforcing processes. Equitable social development is the foundation of economic prosperity, and economic growth is necessary for social development.

Social welfare refers to an integrated and comprehensive system of social services, facilities, programmes and social security to promote social development, social justice and the social functioning of people. Social security, social services and related social development programmes are investments which lead to tangible economic gains and in turn lead to economic growth. Without such social investments economic growth will be compromised.

Policy implications

9. Since resources are limited, trade-offs must be made between investment in economic growth and human resources, and investment in a social safety net. Welfare expenditure will only be able to expand as higher economic growth rates are achieved. The benefits of economic growth, however, should be equitably distributed through raising real per capita income and through social development programmes, which in turn will increase the capacity of individuals and families to meet their own needs. Limited resources require trade-offs between expenditure programmes. Investment in human resources and the social safety net may reinforce other investments in economic growth. Understanding the impact of social spending on growth is critical to ensure that trade-offs do not bias spending against social development or growth.

This means that the high expectations of many people for the new democratic Government to deliver welfare services and programmes to address pressing needs cannot be fully met in the short-term. These expectations are a significant constraint and pose a great challenge to all parties to develop social security and social welfare programmes that are both sustainable and interlined with other anti-poverty strategies.


10. The following critical problems have been identified within the welfare system:

Lack of national consensus

11. There is no national consensus on a welfare policy framework and its relationship to a national reconstruction and development strategy.


12. Past welfare policies, legislation and programmes were inequitable, inappropriate and ineffective in addressing poverty, basic human needs and the social development priorities of all people.

13. Racial, gender, sectoral and geographic disparities have created significant distortions in the delivery system.

In general, welfare service provision has an urban and a racial bias. Services are not always located in underprivileged communities and are therefore inaccessible to their members.


14. Information is fragmented and incomplete, leading to an inability to understand the need, impact or consequences of welfare spending.


15. The welfare system was administered by 14 different departments for the different population groups and homelands. This resulted in fragmentation, duplication, inefficiency and ineffectiveness in meeting needs. Each of these departments had their own procedures, styles of work, approaches and priorities.

There is a lack of inter-sectoral collaboration and of a holistic approach. This fragmentation is also reflected in social welfare legislation.


16. Citizen and stakeholder participation in decision-making on social welfare policies, programmes and priorities was not exercised fully and effectively. This resulted in a lack of legitimacy in the welfare system.

Inappropriate approach

17. The social service delivery system is organised along specialist lines. It is fragmented between a number of fields of service, which did not always allow for a holistic approach. While some social workers have received training and practice in community development, the approach to service delivery is still largely rehabilitative, it relies on institutional care and is not preventative and developmental. Welfare services are not accessible and responsive to the needs of all people.

There is a lack of personnel to address needs, especially in provinces with large rural areas. Other categories of personnel are underutilised. A significant proportion of existing personnel are not trained in developmental approaches.

Lack of sustainable financing

18. In the past, social welfare programmes were not considered to be critical social investment priorities and were under-resourced.

Lack of enabling environment

19. There is a lack of enabling legislation and taxation policies are not "welfare-friendly".


20. South Africa has a fairly developed social security system and a rich institutional framework of welfare services delivered by non-governmental organisations, such as voluntary welfare organisations, religious organisations, community-based organisations and informal family and community networks. These organisations have expertise, infrastructure and other resources which could play a significant role in reconstruction and development.

In the past, all these service providers were not accorded equal status by the Government. Organisations in civil society which had a progressive stance were not acknowledged or integrated into the formal welfare system.


21. The following restructuring priorities have been identified:

  1. Building consensus about a national social welfare policy framework.
  2. Creating a single national welfare department as well as provincial welfare departments and exploring the potential role of local government in service delivery.
  3. The phasing out of all disparities in social welfare programmes.
  4. Developing representative governance structures to build up the partnership between Government, organisations in civil society, religious organisations and the private sector.
  5. Restructuring the partnership between stakeholders to develop a system which is socially equitable, financially viable, structurally efficient and effective in meeting the needs of the most disadvantaged sectors of the population, and to involve communities in planning and the delivery of services.
  6. Legislative reform at all levels of Government.
  7. Human resource development and the re-orientation of personnel where this is necessary towards establishing a developmental social welfare framework. (h) Restructuring and the rationalisation of the social welfare delivery system, towards a holistic approach, which will include social development, social functioning, social care, social welfare services and social security programmes.
  8. Developing a financially sustainable welfare system.
  9. Developing strategies and mechanisms to translate the aims, objectives and programmes of the Reconstruction and Development Programme into action in the welfare field. The development of intersectoral arrangements within the welfare sector and between the welfare sector and other Government departments is a key priority.
  10. An ability to translate these strategies and aims into implementable budgets requires better information and modelled alternatives so that decision makers can make more informed decisions.


This White Paper deals with key substantive issues in the restructuring of social welfare services, programmes and social security,

The document is structured in two parts. The first part (chapters 2 to 6) provides the overall framework and the instruments needed to deliver effective and appropriate services.

The substantive issues in the first part are: a national strategy; institutional arrangements; human resource development; legislation; and finance and budgeting.

The second part (chapters 7 and 8) focuses on the actual restructuring of the social service delivery system, that is, on social security and welfare services, to enhance social integration. These chapters set out the proposed programmes, guidelines and recommendations for future action. Section 1 in chapter 8 focuses on the family and the life cycle: families, children, youth and ageing. Sections 2 and 3 address the needs and problems of women and persons with disabilities. The special needs and problems of individuals and families are addressed in Section 4, focusing on mental health, substance abuse, crime prevention through restorative justice, people with chronic illnesses and HIV/AIDS.

For descriptions of terms, please refer to the glossary.

Return to Contents | Chapter 2