Stats SA survey shows COVID-19 pandemic results in an increase in unemployment and hunger

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The COVID-19 pandemic has affected scores of lives, bringing life as we know it to a grinding halt. But just how much has the pandemic and the subsequent lockdown affected South Africans?

Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) has embarked on a series of three online web-based surveys. The aim of the surveys is to measure the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on individuals in the country. This is to assist government and other stakeholders in their response to the crisis.

The second round of the survey (Wave 2) focused on employment, income and hunger-related issues for persons residing in South Africa who are 18 years and older.

The data collection for Wave 2 took place between April 29 and May 6. The survey used a non-probability, convenience sample, receiving responses from 2 688 individuals.

While the survey results do not represent the entire South African population, it does reflect the types of challenges South Africans are currently facing.

The key findings in the survey paint a rather bleak picture.

On employment:

  • Almost nine in ten (89,5%) of those who were employed before the national lockdown, remained employed during the lockdown.
  • 8,1% of the respondents reported that they lost their jobs or had to close their businesses and 1,4% became unemployed.
  • According to the survey, the lockdown was the main reason most respondents (63,6%) were temporarily absent from work.
  • Almost 70% of those who lost their jobs reported it was due to their place of work or business shutting down or due to the lack of customers.
  • Prior to the lockdown, most respondents indicated they had worked from non-residential buildings. Only 1,4% of those in employment worked from home. However, the COVID-19 pandemic brought about a change where 77,9% of those who worked during the lockdown, did so from home compared to 15,1% who worked from non-residential buildings.
  • Working from home during the lockdown was more common for respondents who indicated that they lived in the suburbs (88,0%) compared to 5,4% in townships.
  • Most of the respondents who said their hours of work had been reduced were employed on a permanent basis and there was little change in the salary for most of them.
  • Only 5,4% of respondents who reported owning a small registered business indicated that they received financial relief from the government.

On income and hunger

  • The survey shows the percentage of respondents who reported no income increased from 5,2% before the lockdown to 15,4% by the sixth week of the lockdown.
  • The percentage of respondents who received an income from salary/wages decreased from 76,6% prior to the lockdown to 66,7% by the sixth week of the lockdown.
  • More than half of respondents (56,2%) said that their income has stayed the same since the start of the lockdown. However, 25,8% of respondents reported a decrease in their income.
  • For those respondents who had jobs during the lockdown, their income stayed the same as before the lockdown for 67,5% of them, while 21,3% indicated reduced income.
  • Since the start of the lockdown, the proportion of respondents who reported experiencing hunger increased from 4,3% to 7,0%.

As the COVID-19 pandemic does pose a risk to the health of those around the globe, the devastating effect it has on the economy and labour market is proving just as detrimental on the lives of South Africans.

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