New research shows how the lockdown has hit South Africans financially

A new study conducted by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) has highlighted the impact of the Covid-19 coronavirus, and current lockdown, on South Africans.

Announced on Sunday (26 April) by the minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology Dr Blade Nzimande, the survey was conducted from 9 April – 16 April and included 19,330 participants.

These participants included:

  • The majority (70%) were between 25-59 years of age;
  • 52.1% were female and 48% were male;
  • 78.4% were African;
  • 9.6% white;
  • 9% coloured;
  • 3% were Indian/other.

The survey showed that between 45% and 63% of people reported that the lockdown would make it difficult to pay bills, debts, earn income, feed their families and keep their jobs.

Additionally, a quarter of residents had no money to buy food, while more than half (55%) of informal settlement residents had no money for food.

Financial Impact of lockdown

A similar survey conducted in mid-April by consumer credit reporting agency TransUnion found that eight in 10 South Africans said their household income had been negatively impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Of consumers who are concerned about paying their bills, nearly half report that they would not be able to pay their utilities (electricity, water, etc.), 42% would not be able to make their rent repayment, and 39% reported that they would not be able to pay their mobile bill.


Read South Africa’s full level 4 lockdown restrictions here


The poll showed that the majority of people have adhered to the regulations, set to be relaxed slightly at the end of the month. Unsurprisingly, almost all respondents said they either left their homes for food, medicine and social grants or stayed at home.

30% had not left home since the start of lockdown, and 62% had left to get food and/or medicine.

The overwhelming majority of residents (75%) had no interaction with law enforcement, while 14.7% of the residents indicated that they were treated badly, the report found.

Additional findings:

  • Contact with people during the lockdown: only 20% of the respondents indicated that they had not left home, 8% had met with more than 50 people. 51% of people reported that they came into close contact with 10 or more people during the past 7 days when out of their homes. 15% had to use public transport to get to the shops.
  • Risk perception: 1 in 2 people indicated a sense of security and so they perceived themselves to be at low risk, only 1 in 5 people believed that they are at high risk of infection.
  • Access to chronic medication: Approximately 13.2% of the population indicated that their chronic medication was inaccessible during the lockdown. Approximately 13%-25% of those living in informal settlements, rural (traditional tribal areas) and farms indicated their chronic medications were not easily accessible.
  • Access to alcohol and cigarettes during the lockdown: Cigarettes (11.8%) were more accessible than alcohol (2.5%) during lockdown. A quarter of people from informal settlements were able to buy cigarettes during lockdown.

“Government and society as a whole should acknowledge that some communities are struggling and people may have no money to buy food. A social compact must be created with communities and the public and private sector, to ensure sustainable financial and social relief,” said the HSRC.

“This should include promoting intergenerational cohesion and sustainable food banks at the level of the district.”

“We need to provide clear guidance and support to people so that they are able to adhere to regulations and acknowledge that it is difficult for people to make these major changes willingly in order to protect their families and communities,” it said.


Read: What South Africans are doing to get through lockdown, financially

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New research shows how the lockdown has hit South Africans financially