South Africa recovers 2.1 million jobs lost during level 5 lockdown – survey

President Cyril Ramaphosa. Image credit: Twitter/The Presidency

South Africa’s labour market has seen a significant recovery to almost pre-lockdown levels, the latest National Income Dynamics Study Coronavirus Rapid Mobile Survey (NIDS-CRAM) reveals.

NIDS-CRAM is conducted by researchers from various South African universities. Every few months, it surveys a nationally representative sample of South Africans focusing on “their income and employment, their household welfare, receipt of grants, and about their knowledge and behaviour related to COVID-19,” its website states.

Last year, the survey found that 2.8 million people had lost their jobs between February and April, the month in which South Africa bore the brunt of level 5 lockdown. A subsequent survey in June showed some recovery.

2.1 million jobs recovered

The easing of lockdown restrictions led to the recovery of 2.1 million jobs between June and October 2020, the researchers said in the latest survey released on Wednesday (17 February).

“NIDS-CRAM Wave 3 data shows evidence of a substantial job market recovery in October 2020 compared to April (Level 5 Lockdown), and June (Level 3 Lockdown),” they explained.

“Between February and April 2020, we had previously found a substantial increase in those who were not employed – from 43% to 52%, as well as an increase in furloughed workers.

“We now find that by October 2020 the percentage of people employed is much closer to its February pre-pandemic level. The fraction of people employed (including furloughed workers) has changed from 57% (February), to 48% (April and June), and is now 55% in October.”

However, the survey found that only half of those who lost their jobs in April were employed again in October, while about a third of those who did not have jobs in February were employed in October.


“Job recovery was stronger for those with more education, especially among the youth. If one focuses on youth (18-24 years), those with a Matric were more likely to be employed in October (42%) compared to February (29%), while employment for those with more-than-Matric increased from 42% in February to 46% in October,” the researchers said.

The survey’s findings will likely be a welcome relief for President Cyril Ramaphosa, who came under severe criticism from EFF leader Julius Malema in Parliament’s SONA debate on Tuesday.

Malema said when Ramaphosa took office, the unemployment rate was 26.1% with 8.8 million people unemployed.

“Today the unemployment rate has increased to 31% while the number of unemployed people has increased to well over 10 million. More than 2 million people who had jobs when he took office, do not have jobs,” the EFF leader said.

In October, Ramaphosa announced a R100 billion Presidential Employment Stimulus aimed at creating or protecting over 800,000 jobs. In an update last week, the Presidency said the stimulus has created more than 433,000 opportunities so far.

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