A universal basic income grant is a deep ideological shift towards individualism, and its material effects will lead to very deep social and cultural changes. It could change the basic structure of our economy.

South Africa is considering a basic income grant (BIG) again. A basic income grant, particularly one that pays out generously above the minimum needed to live is likely to affect the entire social security system and all social policy profoundly.

Its design and features will have effects on family life, housing, education, health, migration and settlement patterns. Its economic effects will be difficult to predict, as this grant will enable individuals to spend on themselves, and thus generate “individualist” effects that may be surprising. It will enable individual investments in consumption, education, health and housing, and these will have many multipliers.

What is important is the level at which a BIG will be paid. The sheer size of this bill will necessarily affect all other grants in the social security system, and it is inconceivable that the current system of grants will be left alone upon its implementation. The idea of a universal basic income grant will overlap significantly with all the other grants and all…

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