South Africa: Calls for Bolder Action As Lockdown Exposes Fault Lines of Inequality

A resident of Mamelodi in South Africa during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Stark contrasts emerging from the first days of Level 4 lockdown highlight the extreme disparities that form the foundations of South African society.

The economic consequences of the lockdown mirror entrenched inequalities of race, class and gender, and offer a reminder that financial stress and insecurity are grinding daily realities for most of those who live in South Africa.

However, the findings of Phase 1 of the University of Johannesburg-Human Sciences Research Council (UJ-HSRC) Covid-19 Democracy Survey show that, while the economic squeeze may be felt unevenly, everybody, irrespective of race, class or education, is very concerned about the financial situation facing South African society. This may be leading to greater cross-class support for policy interventions designed to protect the vulnerable.

It will be some time before the full economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic is known, but the survey provides insights into its early impact on employment. Of those who had been working prior to lockdown, 18% had been...

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