Govt completes draft on retirement system

Monday, November 9, 2009

Cape Town - Government's Cluster on Social Protection and Community Development had completed the drafting of the Consolidated Government Document on Comprehensive Social Security.

Briefing the media today on the progress of the cluster, the Minister of Public Works Geoff Doidge said the document would be released for public comment once it had been approved by Cabinet.

The Director General of Social Development Vusi Madonsela said following a framework approved by Cabinet in 2003, the country was moving towards a mandatory retirement scheme which would cover a "sizeable" part of the population that earned above a certain threshold.

"The fundamental principle is that it allows the working population to participate in retirement in order for them to save for their retirement in order for them to prevent the possibility of poverty in old age," explained Madonsela.

While the current retirement grant, was "hardly enough" to serve as a replacement income, South Africans should be encouraged to save more, he said.

He pointed out that most people only saved purely on the basis of shop-floor agreements made under the collective bargaining system.

"Then in fact the old-age grant becomes part of the basic pillar of your social security system, which means that every person who reaches the age of eligibility, or pensionable age, will be entitled to an old-age grant.

"Over and above that if they've participated in contributory schemes of retirement, that will come in as a top up of what they've already received as a basic," explained Madonsela.

He said government also planned to expand the retirement system by extending child grants and had also given "serious consideration" to removing the means test from the old-age grant.

Cabinet last month approved the extension of child grants, which will see 15-year-olds being eligible to qualify for the grant for the first time next year, with 16-year-olds being eligible in 2012 and those aged 17 in 2013.

Madonsela said towards the end of last year, government experienced an increase in the uptake of its three-month social relief of distress initiative - a temporary provision of assistance intended for people facing hardships and unable to meet their or their families' most basic needs.

He attributed the increase to the "spiralling increase" in food prices and said his department had already spent R130 million of its R136 million social-relief budget.

This year's allocation for social relief was less than last year and Madonsela said his department had submitted a further request to the National Treasury for an allocation of an estimated R200 million, which would enable his department to cope with the expected influx of social relief programme.