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These are the groups worst hit financially by the Covid-19 pandemic

A researcher at the University of the Western Cape has developed what he says is an improved version of the vulnerability index issued in 2020 by StatsSA

16 January 2022 - 00:00
Women are among those worst hit financially by the pandemic, a revised vulnerability index shows.
Women are among those worst hit financially by the pandemic, a revised vulnerability index shows.
Image: Sandile Ndlovu

Women, blacks and the elderly are among those in SA who have been worst affected economically by the pandemic, according to a new vulnerability index. 

Derek Yu, an associate professor in economics at the University of the Western Cape,  decided to revise and improve upon an existing vulnerability index compiled by StatsSA in 2020, taking into account socioeconomic, demographic, housing, hygiene and health factors. 

His findings have been published in a research paper titled “Revisiting the Covid-19 vulnerability index in SA”.

“I noticed StatsSA released a study in 2020 ... But I found there is still room to improve the methodology further, especially the indicators [used],"  Yu said.

According to StatsSA, “vulnerability” in this context refers to the demographic and socioeconomic factors that influence the resilience of individuals and communities affected by Covid.

“Individuals coming from female, African and elderly-headed households living in rural areas in the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo were relatively more vulnerable to the pandemic,” Yu said.

“In addition, residents from the Alfred Nzo, Amathole, Harry Gwala, OR Tambo and Umzinyathi districts, as well as individuals living in numerous municipalities from the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, were identified as most vulnerable to the pandemic.”

Yu said his index, by identifying those most vulnerable to the pandemic, is intended to make the government realise “it needs to pay more attention to these people and areas in terms of preventing the spread of Covid-19".

Mervyn Abrahams, programme director of the civil society body Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice & Dignity Group, said: “It is also what we are seeing and it is also households headed by females, almost totally African. This has been the situation even prior to the pandemic. The pandemic has only made the situation worse.

“When we look at the impact of Covid, it is a largely a financial issue, that there are not sufficient funds coming into a household because of job losses and cutbacks. The more people who become unemployed the deeper the vulnerability becomes.

In numbers:

55% — The number of female- headed households vulnerable to the pandemic

95% — The number of black  households vulnerable to the pandemic

“What people on the ground are telling us is that they are scrounging to get by each day. There is no guarantee that tomorrow will bring any food on the table.”

Abrahams said recent torrential rain in KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape was likely to increase the price of fresh produce and hit the poor severely.

He said the violence and looting in July last year had deepened the vulnerability of poorer communities in KwaZulu-Natal. “A lot of shopping centres were not rebuilt; there are now extra transport costs to do basic shopping. Some of the job losses are connected to that unrest.” 

Research recently published by economists Chijioke Nwosu from Free State University and Adeola Oyenubi from Wits University also highlighted the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on the poor.

“One of the avenues through which [the] steeper African racial gradient occurs is higher exposure to hazardous jobs by working as cleaners, nurses and in fumigation of contaminated areas,” the academics said in their paper, published in the International Journal for Equity in Health.


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