The Role of Social Security in Respecting and Protecting the Dignity of Lone Mothers in South Africa:Final Report

This report explores whether social assistance, as a financial transfer to low income people, serves to help to protect and respect people’s dignity, or conversely whether there are ways in which the country’s social security arrangements serve to undermine people’s dignity. Although the issues around poverty, dignity and social security could be explored with any subgroup of the population, lone mothers were selected for several reasons. First, they embody the societal expectations of caregiver and breadwinner – roles which are difficult to reconcile even if there is financial support from the state. Second, as lone mothers typically have a low level of educational qualifications and in the context of high unemployment, any paid work is likely to be insecure and poorly paid. Third, if employment opportunities are available, state provided childcare facilities are inadequate in many areas, and even if private provision is physically accessible it is usually unaffordable for low income families, and so challenges are faced at every turn whether in work or not in work. Recent research indicates that lone mothers in South Africa experience particularly high levels of poverty, and suffer financial (and often physical) insecurity which is compounded by a lack of autonomy.