Edited by Guðný B. Eydal and Tine Rostgaard
Chapter 19: Family life and family policy in South Africa: responding to past legacies, new opportunities and challenges
To combat child poverty, South Africa adopted and implemented an expansive publicly funded social assistance policy reaching 63 per cent of poor children. The Child Support Grant (CSG), fashioned on the notion of the ‘primary caregiver’, is gender-neutral and does not distinguish between family types in its eligibility criteria. It therefore represents a progressive approach to the design of child and family support benefits in a middle-income country. However, South Africa’s newly adopted family policy (White Paper on Families or WPF) in 2013 which advocates marriage and the heteronormative nuclear family model contradicts the earlier approach to family support. In this chapter, Knijn and Patel examine these two national policies that were adopted at different times in post-apartheid South Africa. They argue that the policies take divergent stands on the notion of families in the society and on the direction of social interventions. This reflects the ideological shifts from a progressive policy approach in the mid-1990s towards more conservative notions about families in the contemporary period. The authors commence their analysis with an examination of the CSG followed by an analysis of the successive versions of the WPFs (1997, 2005 and 2013). The two approaches to families and their relevance in the local context are compared and they conclude that the CSG is a more enabling family policy and is more contextually appropriate than the family policy presented in the WPFs.
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