3-million lost their jobs after first month of Covid-19 lockdown

Unemployment on the rise, hunger increases

15 July 2020 - 13:21 By Ernest Mabuza
A survey has shown how unemployment and hunger have increased as the effects of Covid-19 take hold.
A survey has shown how unemployment and hunger have increased as the effects of Covid-19 take hold.
Image: 123rf.com/betonstudio

Employment has decreased substantially between February and April, after the Covid-19 lockdown was implemented, and close to half of the population has experienced hunger at some point during the same period.

The public also seems to have limited knowledge of the three most common Covid-19 symptoms, especially tiredness. This implies that many South Africans will not be in a good position to make decisions about when it would be vital to quarantine or seek care for Covid-19 symptoms.

Breakdown of unemployment, loss of income, and hunger in SA during the lockdown.
Breakdown of unemployment, loss of income, and hunger in SA during the lockdown.
Image: Nolo Moima

These are some of the findings of the first wave of the National Income Dynamics Study- Coronavirus Rapid Mobile Survey (Nids-Cram).

The survey is a telephonic follow-up panel survey of the participants in an earlier survey known as Nids. It convened a national consortium of 30 social science researchers from five South African universities to conduct Nids-Cram from May to December 2020.

Over the course of May and June, and using 50 call centre agents, researchers conducted a 20-minute survey asking 7,000 respondents about their employment, household hunger, receipt of grants and Covid-19 risk perceptions and behaviour.

The survey revealed that employment has declined substantially and that the effects of this are most significant for the most disadvantaged.

On employment, Nids-Cram found an 18% decline in employment between February and April 2020.

It found that while 17-million people were employed in February 2020, this had declined to 14-million people in April.

The survey found that job losses were disproportionately concentrated among the already disadvantaged groups in the labour market.

SUMMARY

1-in-3 income earners in February did not earn an income in April

Women, manual workers and those at the bottom half of the income distribution have
suffered disproportionately higher rates of job loss.

Of the 3m jobs lost between February and April, women accounted for 2m.

An estimated 30% of those who were retrenched
between February and April report no household-level grant protection at all.

1-in-5 said that someone in their household went hungry in the last seven days,
and 1-in-7 reported that a child had gone hungry in the week before.

On hunger, the survey showed that 47% of the respondents reported that they had run out of money to buy food in a single month; this was in April, during lockdown. Before the lockdown, 21% of households reported that they ran out of money to buy food in the month, during the previous year.

In households that experienced hunger in the past seven days, 42% managed to “shield” children from that hunger.

“That is, even though adults are reporting hunger, children are reported not to have gone hungry in the past seven days.”

On health, the survey found that almost all respondents (96%) who said they needed to see a health-care worker for a chronic condition (such as HIV, TB or diabetes) in the past four weeks said they were able to do so.

“Approximately 19% of the sample (1,612 respondents) reported that in the past four weeks they needed to see a health worker about a chronic condition (such as HIV, TB, diabetes).

“Of this group 90% reported that they did actually visit a health-care facility. This is encouraging, since the period referred to was during level 5 or level 4 lockdown in SA.”

The survey found that affluent South Africans have exaggerated infection risk perceptions.

It found that the proportion of individuals reporting that they are likely to contract Covid-19 increases substantially when comparing the poorest fifth (20%) of the population to the richest fifth.

The survey also found that though 90% of respondents reported changing their behaviour in some way, only one in three are reporting implementing the most effective preventive measures.

“As droplet transmission is the most common means of spreading the disease, the first-best strategies are widely acknowledged to be avoiding large groups of people, physical distancing and mask-wearing.”

The survey also found that knowledge about the three most common Covid-19 symptoms was limited, especially for the tiredness symptom.

“Though 64% of respondents listed coughing as a symptom, and 63% listed fever, only 11% listed tiredness as a symptom.

“This implies that many South Africans would not be in a good position to make decisions about when it would be vital to quarantine and/or seek care for Covid-19 symptoms.

“This is expected to have negative consequences for individuals, but also more broadly for society, because it works against the containment of the disease.”



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