Social Pensions in Nambia and South Africa

Social Pensions in Nambia and South Africa

Safety net arrangements for elderly Africans

Non-contributory state pensions were introduced in South Africa in 1928. Eligibility was extended to White Namibians in the 1940s but to African Namibians only in 1973.

Initially motivated by a complex combination of welfarist and political objectives, including the control of African urbanisation and ‘winning hearts and minds’ during South Africa’s occupation of Namibia, the social pension has sustained millions of poor families for decades.

The paper reviews the administrative history of the social pension and then presents evidence of the social and economic impacts, drawing on a household survey carried out in three contrasting Namibian communities. Apart from providing non-covariate income against livelihood shocks such as drought, the social pension stimulates local trade, enhances the status of elderly family members, and contributes to the costs of primary and secondary education. While concerns have been raised about the fiscal sustainability of the social pension, its future as a social assistance programme depends mainly on political commitment. [author]