Socio-Economic Issues & Public Policy in South Africa


It is more than two decades after the end of Apartheid in South Africa, and the country is different. South Africa has a well-institutionalized democracy with a widely significant set of gains in curbing social inequality and extreme poverty among the citizens. However, inequality, poverty, and unemployment are still the most pressing socio-economic issues. The three problems interact to bring about adverse socio-economic effects. For instance, high levels of inequality constrain growth, thus discouraging job creation and poverty eradication opportunities. Therefore, solving the issues is the best way to enhance socio-economic development in the country. To effectively solve the problems, there is a need to develop more properly defined public policies. The most appropriate public policy that responds to South African socio-economic conditions should be evidence-based, adaptive, and flexible enough to undergo the necessary changes successfully.

The Socio-Economic Issues in South Africa

Since the end of the Apartheid, the economic outlook of South Africa has significantly improved. However, poverty, unemployment, and inequality have negated the country’s socio-economic status. According to Dessus and Hanusch (2018), South Africa has the highest inequality rates globally, driven by the development in the labor markets that require various skills that poor people lack. The country has implemented social assistance and fiscal redistribution policies to help reduce inequality. However, the guidelines have not been efficient enough due to the mismatch between the demand and supply of labor generated by South Africa’s slow growth (Dessus & Hanusch (2018). Therefore, the government needs to define public policies better to address the three socio-economic challenges. Alternatively, the already existing public policies can also be modeled to reflect the issues and develop their solution.

The Definition of Public Policy

The studies involved offer three distinct aspects of public policies that have been used to develop the definition in this essay. Firstly, public policies should be guided by evidence-based involvement. Parsons (2002) states that the policy-making process should be informed by evidence-based interventions and avoid political influence. An evidence-based policy relies on what is already known from program evaluations to develop better policy decisions and gather more knowledge to inform future policy decision-making. Secondly, public policies are likely to be passed from one government to another, thus are required to be flexible. Rose and Davies (1994) insinuate that a public policy should be adaptable to change, especially if the procedure is inherited from former governments. In their work, Rose and Davies (1994) explain that most public policies in various countries are passed down from the predecessor governments. Therefore, they can be used by more than one ruling government with the option of modifying them to suit the significant changes that are likely to occur in a society.

The third element of public policy from the evaluation is adaptability. According to Walker et al. (2001), the best public policy should be adaptive and designed to be adaptable across a range of various possibilities rather than ideal for the best guess future. Walker et al. (2001) explain that when there are so many possible future scenarios, it may be impossible to create a single static policy that will work well in all of them. Therefore, this means that public policies should involve time-sensitive actions and those that make significant commitments to change the future, and that preserve necessary future flexibility. The three aspects can be merged to define the best public policy as the one which is evidence-based, adaptive, and flexible. Such a policy can be applied to solving the socio-economic issues in South Africa. Notably, the evidence base aspect helps study the existing approaches to inform the necessary changes. Adaptivity and flexibility are most applicable when there are changes in society, such as new leadership and an increase in population, as they make it possible to modify the existing policies to suit the changes.

An Existing Public Policy Process in South Africa to Justify the Definition

One of the significant policies implemented in South Africa to reduce poverty and inequality while increasing employment includes fiscal redistribution through social assistance. According to Dessus and Hanusch (2018), this policy has been unable to redress the increase in inequality for several years and is constrained by the narrowing fiscal space. A better approach is necessary to foster inclusive growth through functionalities such as increasing access to good jobs, especially for the poor. Based on the definition identified above, effective public policy should be evidence-based, adaptive, and flexible to undergo the necessary changes. Social assistance policy is flexible and adaptive as it has been passed down from one government to another. However, the procedure requires some modifications to make it evidence-based to address the issues fully.


The South African social-economic status is identified by various issues, including inequality, poverty, and unemployment. These problems should be solved for economic development to be experienced. The solution to the difficulties requires properly defined public policies. Based on the analysis of various research studies, the most effective public policy to solve these issues should be evidence-based, adaptive, and flexible enough to undergo the necessary changes. Multiple approaches have been implemented to solve the problems, but they have not been effective. One such policy is the social assistance policy, which has improved the beneficiaries’ incomes, thus contributing to poverty eradication. Incorporating the new definition of social protection policy will make it more fruitful.


Dessus, S. C., & Hanusch, M. (2018). South Africa economic update: Jobs and inequality.

Parsons, W. (2002). From muddling through to muddling up-evidence based policy making and the modernization of the British Government. Public Policy and Administration, 17(3), 43-60. Web.

Rose, R., & Davies, P. L. (1994). Inheritance in Public Policy: Change without choice in Britain. Yale University Press.

Walker, W. E., Rahman, S. A., & Cave, J. (2001). Adaptive policies, policy analysis, and policy-making. European Journal of Operational Research, 128(2), 282-289. Web.

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DemoEssays. "Socio-Economic Issues & Public Policy in South Africa." November 2, 2022.