Covid-19 hits Gauteng residents hard as more people lose their jobs: survey

Ernest Mabuza Journalist
The economic impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic have been extreme for Gauteng residents, with many reporting a reduction in salaries and working hours, as well as job losses, a quality of life survey has found. File photo.
The economic impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic have been extreme for Gauteng residents, with many reporting a reduction in salaries and working hours, as well as job losses, a quality of life survey has found. File photo.
Image: MIKE HUTCHINGS/REUTERS

The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic and associated lockdowns have hit Gauteng hard and forced households to adapt.

This is one of the observations made from the Gauteng City-Region Observatory's (GCRO) Quality of Life Survey 2020-21.

GCRO is a partnership of the University of Johannesburg, the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, the Gauteng provincial government and organised local government in the province. One of the largest and longest-running social surveys in SA, it is conducted biennially, through face-to-face interviews.

The latest survey had a sample size of 13,616 people. The fieldwork for the survey took place from October 2020 to May 2021.

One of the salient findings of the survey is that the economic effects of the pandemic have been extreme, with many respondents reporting a reduction in salaries and working hours, as well as job losses.

The survey found 18% of respondents had lost their jobs and one in 10 of respondents who had owned a business before March 2020 saw their businesses forced to close.

It also found that grants and social support have provided some crucial protection to the most vulnerable.

Black African and lower- to middle-income households have been hit hardest.

To understand some of the economic affects of the pandemic, the researchers asked respondents whether, since March 2020, they had lost a job, had their salary or working hours reduced, permanently closed a business, or been evicted from their home.

Only 0.4% of respondents said they had been evicted from their homes since March 2020. Though this figure was hearteningly low, the researchers said in a report on the findings of the survey they did not have data to directly compare whether it was lower or higher than pre-pandemic levels.

In comparison, the impact on jobs, businesses, and salaries and working hours had been much more significant.

“Almost one fifth of respondents (18%) who previously had work say they lost a job since March 2020. This is not to suggest that these respondents all stayed without work.

“Of those who lost a job since March 2020, a third (34%) indicate that they are now currently working. But of those who lost a job and who are not currently employed, 87% say they are unemployed and looking for work.”

The report said patterns of job loss varied considerably by population group, though all population groups were affected.

“Some 12% of white respondents lost a job, compared to 19% for black Africans, 20% for coloureds and 20% for Indian/Asians.”

The survey found that 30% of those in the lowest income group lost a job, compared to 6% in the highest income group.

It was also observed that one in 10 of respondents who had owned a business before March 2020 had seen their businesses forced to close in the pandemic. “Again the figures differ markedly by population group. Only 5% of white respondents say their businesses closed permanently, compared to 10% of black Africans and 16% of Indians/Asians.”

The survey found 11% of respondents in the lowest two household monthly income groups (R1-R800 and R801-R3,200) permanently closed their businesses, compared to just 4% in the highest income group.

"'However, it cannot be said definitively whether this correlation is because business closures forced households into poverty, or whether more survivalist businesses at the lower end of the economic spectrum providing more meagre revenues to their owners suffered a disproportionate impact.”

According to the findings, an extraordinary one-third of respondents (30%) who were working say that their salary and working hours were reduced since March 2020.

“Interestingly, the proportion of respondents who experienced a reduction in work hours and salary varies minimally by population group or income group, though it is slightly higher for whites at 34% than it is for black Africans and Indians/Asians at 29%.

“This could indicate that white respondents may have been relatively more protected from employment losses than black African and Indian/Asian respondents, but instead saw working hours and salaries reduced while jobs were preserved.”

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