Social Policy Initiative (SPI) SONA (State of the Nation Address) 2024 Press statement- social assistance is an investment in the future, but we need a UBI now!

The Social Policy Initiative (SPI) welcomes the announcement by President Cyril Ramaphosa in the 2024 SONA on 8 February in which he cited clear evidence that social assistance is developmental, increasing school enrolment and attendance, lower drop-out rates and improves school pass rates.


Around 9 million unemployed adults receive the monthly R350 Social Relief of Distress grant. The President announced further that this grant will be extended and improved as the ‘next step towards income support for the unemployed’.


This announcement, made on the eve of the 2024 national and provincial elections, acknowledges the state’s constitutional obligations to ensure every person has a life of dignity, and the state’s requirement to roll out universal social security to all.


Currently there are just under 12 million unemployed people in South Africa. 52% of the 15 million applicants for the R350 grant in November 2023 had never had a job before. 6 million of the applicants only had Grade 10 education. Unemployment in South Africa is higher than anywhere else in the world, and inequality is highest in South Africa too.


The size of the solution to the crisis needs to be large enough to beat the cause and the symptoms that fails to deliver human rights or economic stability and growth. What the President has offered is not enough. We need a commitment to a Universal Basic Income to everybody of R1 500 per month.


SPI’s Strategy Paper on Universal Basic Income released in January 2024 proves how a decent Universal Basic Income (UBI) of R1 500 per person per month, introduced over a three-year period, could increase GDP growth and reduce unemployment significantly. It would also be able to self- finance 96% of the costs because of the scale of the intervention.


30 years into democracy we had hoped to see a bolder commitment to take forward through the new administration ensure a better life for all, and women in particular.




Isobel Frye
Executive Director

E: | M: +27 84 508 1271


Noma Jakuja

Senior Researcher

E: | M: +27 79 936 3614