Vulnerability and social protection at the margins of the formal economy
du Toit, Andries
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This report sets out the results of an in-depth study of livelihood strategies and ‘coping mechanisms’ among poor people in one very specific, but highly significant context of poverty in South Africa. Its core concrete concern is with social grants and cash transfers; but it does not focus narrowly on how they are administered and used. Instead, it firstly focuses on the broader context of the livelihood strategies and coping mechanisms within which these are used – strategies that might be called ‘private social protection’ and which other researchers have referred to as ‘distal social welfare’. Secondly, it is motivated by a conviction that social protection and social grants should be aimed, not only at the important goal of alleviating poverty, but also supporting pathways out of it. While current research clearly suggests that the massive expansion in social welfare has made possible a significant reduction in monetary poverty, a decisive and further reduction in poverty requires attention to the structural conditions that interrupt or impede these pathways out of poverty. If these underlying structural issues are not addressed, there is a very real danger that social protection, and social grants in particular, may end up contributing only towards ensuring what might be called ‘managed poverty’ – in other words, a situation in which poverty is managed through the amelioration of its harshest effects – but not reduced in a sustainable manner.