Journal of Cross-Cultural Gerontology

, Volume 24, Issue 3, pp 241–258

Reframing Vulnerability: Mozambican Refugees’ Access to State-Funded Pensions in Rural South Africa

Original Article

DOI: 10.1007/s10823-008-9089-z

Cite this article as:
Schatz, E.J. J Cross Cult Gerontol (2009) 24: 241. doi:10.1007/s10823-008-9089-z


Researchers at the South African Medical Research Council/University of the Witwatersrand Rural Public Health and Health Transitions Research Unit (Agincourt) fieldsite in rural South Africa consider Mozambican residents more vulnerable than others in the local population. These self-settled refugees, many of whom are still not South African citizens, primarily came to South Africa in the 1980s during the Mozambican Civil War. This perceived economic vulnerability is rooted in their difficulties in accessing social grants, until recently legally available only to those with South African citizenship documentation. This paper focuses on semi-structured interviews with 30 ‘older’ women of Mozambican-descent living in the Agincourt area. These interviews highlight three important aspects of vulnerability; the respondents: (1) perceive a risk of deportation despite their having lived in the country for 20 years, (2) are unable to easily access social grants, namely the state-funded old-age pension, and (3) struggle to make ends meet when faced with daily needs and crisis situations. All three of these vulnerabilities were mediated to some extent by these women’s resourcefulness. They generated ties to South Africa through obtaining identification-documents, used these documents to access pensions, and used the pensions to help them sustain their multigenerational households.


Aging Refugees Social grants South Africa Vulnerability 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of MissouriColumbiaUSA
  2. 2.University of Colorado–BoulderBoulderUSA
  3. 3.University of the WitwatersrandJohannesburgSouth Africa

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