The adoption of the Decent Standard of Living (DSL) approach is important considering the current socio-economic situation, according to Philip Alston, a UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty.
“We are not just trying to satisfy the bare minimum, but to really promote the notion of DSL that is much more adequate and decent to enable people to enjoy the fullness of their lives,” he said, addressing the recent fourth annual DSL Colloquium in Pretoria.
The colloquium centred on “disrupting poverty” and moving towards providing a decent life for all, linking DSL to human dignity and well-being.
Isobel Frye from Studies in Poverty and Inequality Institute (SPII) said that in a country as divided as SA, the rationale behind adopting the DSL approach was to know if “it is possible to conceptualise a standard of life for everybody, which goes beyond the absolute minimum deprivations, starvation, and survival”.
Hence, the research was conducted to properly understand what constitutes a dignified, decent standard of life.
The adoption of the DSL approach does not necessarily solve all of the problems, but can be used as a blueprint towards alleviating poverty and inequality. It clearly measures what people need to thrive.
In his address, Southern African Social Policy Research Institute’s Dr Wiseman Magasela said the approach resonated with the constitution – the right to dignity for all South Africans.
It seeks to address “all aspects of the injustices that South Africans have undergone and that still exist at present”.
South Africa has also made commitments to achieving the sustainable development goals, which include no poverty and “zero hunger” by 2030 – issues the DSL actively tries to address.
Hassan Mohamed from the department of planning, monitoring and evaluation said: “The operational potential of the DSL can serve as a yardstick of how we are progressing as a country.”
It does so by providing a framework, not only for the government, but also for citizens to keep track of patterns and progress, to see if we are, in fact, creating an equitable society.
While theorists debate poverty, what really matters is the citizens. The DSL, developed with them, is an innovative measurement for change. But the DSL needs implementation by those in power.
Research has shown a meagre 3% of South Africans have a decent standard of living.
It is essential for change to take place and such change needs new tools, like the DSL, to become a reality.