Three million South Africans lost their jobs, 1.5m employed people got no pay in April – study

By Dr Nic Spaull* 

Main findings:

  • 3-million South Africans lost their jobs during lockdown (Feb to April)
  • This is an 18% decline in employment (February to April)
  • 1-in-3 lost their income: 33% of those who earned an income in Feb 2020 did not earn an income in April 2020.
  • 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.
  • 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 those with matric or less (-23%).
  • Women borne 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.’
  • 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.
  • 1-in-5 (22%) said that someone in the HH went hungry in the last week, and 1-in-7 respondents 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’).

  • Dr Nic Spaull is Principal Investigator of NIDS-CRAM.