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New Covid-19 grant for the jobless hailed

Recycling has provided many jobless people a chance to earn an income. / Gallo Images/Fani Mahuntsi
Recycling has provided many jobless people a chance to earn an income. / Gallo Images/Fani Mahuntsi

Around seven million unemployed South Africans qualify for the Covid-19 distress grant which has been hailed by economists and labour analysts as an important intervention by government.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the distress grant of R350 a month for the next six months, which will be paid to individuals who are currently unemployed and who do not receive any other form of social grant or UIF payment.

According to unemployment figures released by Statistics SA in February, there are around 6.7-million unemployed South Africans as per its Quarterly Labour Force Survey.

Imraan Valodia, a Wits economics professor, said the intervention was "very needed".

"Shutting the economy removed the opportunity for people to earn small amounts of money. The economic lives of these people are very vulnerable at the best of times," Valodia said.

He added: "Under the current conditions it's made even worse, so the grant is important and timely."

Valodia said even though the technical aspects of how the grant would be implemented are yet to be made public, technically everyone who's not employed could apply.

He said although it's "fair comment" that much hasn't been done for other groups including the middle class, Valodia said "the focus on the most vulnerable is appropriate for South Africa".

Osborne Molatudi, an employment and labour law attorney, said the distress grant was a necessary intervention.

"There's no doubt that this Covid-19 pandemic is affecting all of us, particularly the vulnerable, who are the poorest of the poor in our communities. In so far as whether this intervention will work, we need to have proper implementation mechanism and monitoring," Molatudi said.

Philippe Burger, a professor of economics at the University of the Free State, said government needed to come with such an intervention.

"Even before the Covid-19 crisis, the broad unemployment rate stood at 38%...

"From humanitarian and political stability perspectives, the government had little choice but to top up grants and consider a grant such as the R350 Covid distress grant," Burger said.

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