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Thu, 07 Dec 2017
Yes! South African dads are getting paid paternity leave!

Yesterday a bill was passed in Parliament that will allow fathers to spend 10 working days at home with their new families. Here’s what you need to know.

On Tuesday 28 November, Parliament gave the thumbs up to a bill that will give fathers in South Africa the right to 10 days’ paid paternity leave.

The Labour Laws Amendment Bill was passed in the National Assembly in Parliament and will now be reviewed by the National Council of Provinces.

The bill also includes provisions for 10 weeks’ parental adoption leave if the baby is under 2 years (applies to one parent only) and surrogacy leave, and increased UIF and maternity benefits.

It places a bigger burden on the UIF chest, but will ultimately lead to healthier families.

Kenneth Meshoe, ACDP party leader, said they welcomed and encouraged initiatives that facilitate the involvement of fathers in their children’s lives, especially “in a country where fathers have historically been separated from their families and survival necessitated an acceptance of not being able to bond and be hands-on in their day-to-day upbringing.”

Matthew Parks, parliamentary co-ordinator for the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), is quoted by Business Dayas saying: “This bill will see billions of rand released from the UIF into the pockets of workers, and thus help them take care of their families and spur local economies. It will also help fathers play greater roles in taking care of their newborn children.”

Wessel van den Berg, from Sonke Gender Justice, was quoted in a Sonke tweet:

VERY important to note with regards to the landmark Labour Laws Amendment Bill passed yesterday in the National Assembly: it is a PARENTAL leave bill, not a paternity leave bill. @HuffPostSA @TimesLiveNews@mailandguardian @dailymaverick

— Sonke (@SonkeTogether) November 29, 2017


What does the law currently say about paternity leave in SA?

At the moment, dads who want to stay with their baby and its mother still have to take family responsibility leave, which is limited to 3 days per annual cycle, or put in annual leave. They’re only entitled to family responsibility leave once they’ve been employed for 4 months and for at least four days a week. The current law also makes no provision for paternity leave for adoption or surrogacy.

A mother is entitled to unpaid maternity leave of 4 months, while her position is reserved for her. However she may claim from UIF for 17 weeks, at 38% to 58% of her salary (the salary ceiling is R12 478), tax-free. Some employers do pay their employees in part or full.


How we stack up against the rest of the world:

This new bill will bring SA more in line with other countries, many of which offer 1 to 4 weeks’ paternity leave. Some give parental leave which may be taken by one parent or split between both parents. And some offer incredible benefits for dads. Here’s a snapshot:

In Canada, dads have several options. They may take 5 weeks of maternity leave at 70% pay, or 3 weeks at 75% pay (up to a certain maximum), paid by social security. Alternatively either parent may take 32 weeks: 7 [...]

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Thu, 07 Dec 2017
Parliament finally passes sugary drinks tax

South Africa is on the right path to reverse the alarming numbers of diabetes cases and other NCDs associated with obesity.

The National Council of Provinces (NCOP) today passed the tax on sugary drinks, which is part of the Rates and Monetary Amounts and Revenue Law Amendment Bill.

This marks the end of 18 months of negotiations on the tax that included four public hearings and a negotiation process in Nedlac. The tax, due to be implemented on 1 April 2018, will see the price of a can of Coca Cola increase by around 11%.

SA on the right path

“We applaud Members of Parliament for putting the health of millions of South Africans before the narrow interests of the beverage and sugar industries,” said Tracey Malawana, coordinator of the Healthy Living Alliance (HEALA).

“Thanks to Treasury and MPs, South Africa is on the right path to reverse the alarming numbers of diabetes cases and other NCDs associated with obesity. We now look to the President to sign this important law without delay. “

Initially Treasury proposed a tax of around 20% on a can of Coca Cola. The current tax will levy 2.1 cents per gram of sugar on all sweetened drinks, with the first 4g of sugar per 100ml exempt as an incentive to encourage industry to reformulate its drinks to reduce their sugar content.

A victory for public health

South Africans are among the top 10 consumers of sugary drinks in the world, and research has shown that drinking just one sugary fizzy drink a day increases ones’ chance of being overweight by 27% for adults and 55% for children. Diabetes alone claimed more than 25 000 lives in 2015, and public health facilities reported seeing 10 000 new diabetes cases every month last year.

“While the tax is a victory for public health, it is around 11% on a can and we would like it to be strengthened to 20% to really deter people,” said Malawana. “We will also be monitoring how the proceeds of the tax are used to ensure that government uses the money for health promotion.”

Over 30 countries worldwide are taxing sugary drinks, and South Africa joins Portugal, India, Saudi Arabia and Thailand who have passed similar taxes this year. – Health-e News.


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Thu, 07 Dec 2017
Fees must fall, but who will pick up the bill? Here are our options...

The storm clouds above South Africa’s universities could be dissipated with careful fiscal planning.

A report into the feasibility of offering free higher education at South Africa’s universities has finally been released.

It has been nearly two years in the making, developed by a commission of inquiry that President Jacob Zuma set up in response to nationwide fee protests.

The lengthy report provides an accurate diagnosis of the state of higher education funding, as well as the problems it faces. But its proposed solutions are problematic.

Many of its limitations arise from a failure to properly integrate an understanding of public finance and public economics into the analysis and recommendations.

The Commission’s report gets two critical things right – even though neither will please student activists. The first is that planned student numbers are simply too high and should be revised downwards. The second is that the country simply can’t afford free higher education for all students given its other priorities and weak economy.

But its recommendations are poor. Models are proposed that represent, I would argue, a significant step backwards from scenarios developed by the Department of Higher Education and Training two years ago.

The department’s scenarios are indirectly supported in another report that’s just been released, by the Davis Tax Committee.

The tax committee endorses a hybrid scheme for higher education funding.

This would retain and increase grants for poor students’ university fees.

It would use loans to fund the “missing middle” – students from households that earn too much to qualify for government funding but still can’t afford higher education.

If South Africa’s concern is really about immediate improvements in equitable access to higher education for poor students, this is the option that should be receiving the most attention.

The Fees Commission report

I have argued previously that one reason for the current state of affairs has been excessive student enrolment, relative to appropriate standards and adequate resources. Yet various policy documents propose rapid increases to enrolment in the coming decades.

The fees commission correctly argues in its report that these projected enrolment numbers are unrealistic. It points out that such high student numbers threaten quality and make adequate funding even more unlikely. It recommends that the numbers be revised downwards.

The commission also does well in recognising that – given the state of South Africa’s economy, public finances and other important government priorities – free higher education for all – or even most students – is simply not feasible or desirable.

It rejects both the possibility of fully funded higher education and the demand for university fees to be abolished.

But it endorses the abolition of application and registration fees, along with regulation of university fees.

There are three critical issues within the current student funding system.

What household income threshold should be used to determine student eligibility for support from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) to ensure all students who need partial or full support are covered?

What resources are needed to ensure that all students below the threshold receive the adequate funding; up to full cost where necessary?

How should the support provided be structured in terms of grants versus loans, or combinations [...]

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