ILO Country study

Rapid Country Assessment: South Africa - The impacts from a COVID-19 shock to South Africa's economy and labour market

This rapid assessment considers the likely impact of the COVID crisis on enterprises and livelihoods and incomes of workers – regular and non-regular, protected and unprotected. It checks the policy responses to the economic crisis and examines initiatives to protect both enterprises and workers, especially the most vulnerable in South Africa.

This assessment investigates the short-term impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the South African economy and its unique labour market, as well as exploring the effectiveness of measures related to the containment and reopening stages of the crisis. South Africa has been the hardest-hit African country; globally, it has the 5th highest number of Covid-19 cases, despite some of the strictest lockdown regulations. Given the large number of jobs lost in the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis (GFC), and the larger size of the COVID-19 crisis, via health and economic channels, we can expect at least as many job losses, if not more. Compounding this situation, the pandemic has come at a difficult time for South Africa. Last year the economy was already slowing, leading to increasing unemployment. As a result, the Covid-19 crisis has led to a fall in formal employment and 9 out of 10 South African businesses have reported losses in turnover. The potential impact presents a somber picture on employment outcomes, revealing that groups, who were already disadvantaged before the crisis, have been disproportionately affected.