There is broad agreement that a social security system is needed to cater for workers who cannot access private pension funds. There are millions in this category who face retirements of destitution reliant on a pitiful state pension.

The question is the best way to address this. An indication of its intractability is the fact that the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) has been discussing it for four years with no agreement on key issues. The green paper released last week by social development minister Lindiwe Zulu was largely based on a 2012 discussion paper and even included outdated figures, though it says that it has taken into account views expressed in Nedlac...

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