Original Research

People with disabilities and income-related social protection measures in South Africa: Where is the gap?

Jill Hanass-Hancock, Tamlyn C. McKenzie
African Journal of Disability | Vol 6 | a300 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ajod.v6i0.300 | © 2017 Jill Hanass-Hancock, Tamlyn C. McKenzie | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 25 July 2016 | Published: 26 September 2017

About the author(s)

Jill Hanass-Hancock, SA Medical Research Council, South Africa; School of Health Science, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Tamlyn C. McKenzie, School of Accounting, Finance and Economics, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

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Background: People with disabilities are at increased risk of poverty, particularly in low-and middle-income countries. However, recent evidence suggests that this association is more nuanced than previously anticipated and that we need better data to understand the opportunity and out-of-pocket costs that diverse groups of people with disabilities may experience.
Objective: This paper discusses if disability is associated with opportunity cost and loss of income both on the individual and household level in South Africa, and if these costs differ depending on disability type and severity.
Methods: For this purpose, the paper analyses General Household Survey 2011 data (people between 15 and 59) using descriptive statistics disaggregated via disability type and severity. The paper also assesses if social grants counteract these costs and reduce economic vulnerability.
Results: The analysis of the data reveals that people with disabilities are affected by issues relating to multidimensional poverty such as lower educational attainment and fewer employment opportunities. In addition, households of people with disabilities (with the exception of milder visual problems) earn significantly less than households without people with disabilities, and this particularly applies to households with people with severe disabilities. This vulnerability also varies by disability type. The country’s social protection mechanisms, in terms of social grants, counteract economic vulnerability to some extent but do not consider the nuanced economic impact of diverse conditions nor the increased out-of-pocket costs related to disability.
Conclusions: This calls for more equitable social protection mechanisms that include accessible services, livelihood programmes and disability benefits.


disability; economic vulnerability; poverty; social protection; Africa


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