SLU news

Child support grants reduce poverty in South Africa

Published: 17 March 2020
Market alung village road in South Africa

Many low- and middle-income countries are in the beginnings of building social protection systems such as social pensions and child support grants. A new doctoral dissertation from SLU shows how South Africa’s cash transfer programmes reduce poverty and improve wellbeing among rural people.

During the last decades, cash transfer programs have become a significant tool across low and middle-income countries in efforts to reduce poverty.

In a new doctoral thesis from SLU, Stefan Granlund has investigated how child support grants has affected the material and social relational conditions in households in two rural villages in the Eastern Cape Province in South Africa. To do this, he compared a recent household survey (2016) with a previous similar survey from 2002, which was before the child support grants had reached these villages.

"My research shows that child support grants have improved household food security and that they are used strategically. Household investments in productive assets, such as water tanks, have increased, but people also use the money to buy seeds for agriculture and to pay for school transports and clothes for children", says Stefan Granlund.

In his work, Stefan Granlund also interviewed women, who receive child support in the form of a monthly payment. These women spoke of improved dignity and wellbeing, but also about a greater sense of independence and a greater influence over decision-making in the household. In addition, they felt more recognized as citizens with rights.

"For women, these cash transfers mean a lot, because in many cases they are the household's only regular source of income", says Stefan Granlund.

In the dissertation, Stefan Granlund points out that cash transfers are not a 'magic bullet' for poverty reduction and that more needs to be done in terms of education, health care etc. Still he emphasises that cash transfers in times of present mass-unemployment not only help people survive but also improve their livelihoods.

"I hope that my dissertation can help governments and aid organizations see the potential of cash transfer programs, not only their material effects but also their social and relational effects", concludes Stefan Granlund.

More information

Stefan Granlund, PhD in Rural Development
Department of Urban and Rural Development, Division of Rural Development
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU)
+46 (0)73-811 97 13,

Link to PhD thesis:

Press images

(May be published without charge in articles about this press release, please acknowledge the photographer).

Water tank for collecting rain water from roof

Water tank. The thesis shows how people living in poverty use the money productively by for example purchasing water tanks which saves time in collecting water. Photo: Stefan Granlund.

Market along village road in South Africa

Marketplace in the village of Cutwini, South Africa. On the day when the pensions and child support grants arrive in the village, people gather along the road to buy and sell food and chickens creating a boost for the local economy. Photo: Stefan Granlund.