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Disaster rules hit employment stats

Three million South Africans lost their jobs during the national lockdown between February and April due to the Covid-19 pandemic, studies conducted by 30 social science researchers from five South African universities, have found.

The first wave of the National Income Dynamics Study (Nids) Coronavirus Rapid Mobile Survey (Cram), referred to as the Nids-Cram project, ran from the 7th of May to the 27th of June and used 50 call-centre agents to survey a representative sub-sample of 7 000 respondents from Nids 2017.

Among many other topics, the 20-minute survey asked respondents about their current and retrospective employment, household hunger, receipt of grants, Covid-19 risk perceptions, knowledge and behaviour.

During the course of 2020 there will be at least four further waves of data collection from the same individuals.

The Wave 1 employment questions asked respondents about the period February to April 2020 because the most severe form of lockdown was in April.

“Reviewing the findings presented in the 11 papers reveals that there is a high degree of agreement between researchers on what the key findings are; that employment has declined substantially and that the effects of this are largest for the most disadvantaged. Inequalities along traditional lines of race, gender, occupation, earnings, location and education have all grown significantly.

An already unequal national situation has been made much worse as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and the local and international responses to it,” says Nic Spaull from Stellenbosch University who is the principle investigator.

The study found that 17 million people were employed in February 2020 but only 14 million people were employed in April 2020.

This means that 3 million fewer people were employed in April compared to February, an 18% decline.

Job losses were disproportionately concentrated among the already disadvantaged groups in the labour market including women and manual workers.

Some of the main findings regarding employment:

V At least 1,5 million had jobs, but no pay: In addition to the 3 million people who lost their job, an additional 1,5 million (9%) reported zero pay although a job to return to.

V Job losses borne by the poor: The rates of net job loss are much higher for manual labourers (-24%) compared to professionals(-5%), for those with verbal contracts (-22%) compared to those with written contracts (-8%), for women (-26%) compared to men (-11%), and for those with a tertiary education (-10%) compared to with matric or less (-23%).

V Women bore the brunt of job losses: Of the 3 million job losses 2 million were women.

Among those groups of people that were already disadvantaged in the labour market, and already faced a disproportionate share of job losses from the pandemic (the less educated, the poor, Black Africans and informal workers), women in these groups faced even further job losses putting them at a “double disadvantage”.

V Almost half of households (47%) ran out of money to buy food in April: 1 in 2 respondents indicated that their household had run out of money to buy food in the month of April.

V 1 in 5 (22%) said that someone in the household went hungry in the last week, and 1 in 7 respondents said that a child went hungry in the last week. 7% of adults and 4% of children were perpetually hungry (hunger “every day” or “almost every day”).

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