Working Paper

IDS Discussion Paper;379

Social Pensions in Namibia and South Africa

Published on 25 February 2001

Non-contributory state pensions were introduced in South Africa in 1928. Eligibility was extended to White Namibians in the 1940s but to African Namibians only in 1973. Initially motivated by a complex combination of welfarist and political objectives, including the control of African urbanisation and ‘winning hearts and minds’ during South Africa’s occupation of Namibia, the social pension has sustained millions of poor families for decades.

This paper documents the history of the pension in both countries and presents evidence on its economic, demographic and social impacts in Namibia. Apart from providing non-covariate income against livelihood shocks such as drought, the social pension stimulates local trade, enhances the status of elderly family members, and contributes to the costs of primary and secondary education. While concerns have been raised about the fiscal sustainability of the social pension, its future as a social assistance programme depends mainly on political commitment.


Stephen Devereux

Research Fellow

Publication details

published by
Institute of Development Studies
Devereux, Stephen
IDS Discussion Paper, issue 379
1 85864 350 3


About this publication

Programmes and centres
Centre for Social Protection

Related content