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SCIS has been working on interdisciplinary analysis of the COVD-19 pandemic across the global South, and developing social and economic responses.

South Africa needs to focus urgently on how COVID-19 will reshape its labour market

David Francis and Imraan Valodia, contributor Kamal Ramburuth-Hurt

South Africa must urgently consider how COVID-19 will reshape its labour market that is already characterised by high unemployment and inequality. They highlight four areas of the labour market that require scrutiny: the informal economy; turbulence and job churn; increasing capital intensity; and gender and work.

Calculator being used on mobile phone photo UnsplashUniversal basic income

Ruth Castel-Branco

The Covid-19 crisis has exposed and intensified institutionalised structures of inequality everywhere. As countries struggle to respond to its social, economic and political fallout, even mainstream leaders have begun to consider universal basic income (UBI).

In its simplest form, a UBI is a publicly funded, unconditional cash transfer paid regularly to all on the basis of citizenship.

South Africa can get COVID-19 under control if it blocks the routes that enable transmission

Alex van den Heever, Imraan Valodia, Lucy Allais, Martin Veller, Shabir Madhi, and Willem Daniel Francois Venter

As the lockdown is relaxed, South Africa’s focus should now be on how best to suppress the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus using other strategies. Policy should be informed by understanding the spread of the virus both in terms of the main mechanism of transmission (respiratory particles) as well as in terms of the connections that result in spread between communities. Crucially, not all spreaders are equal, and understanding this is important for policy.

Dextrose hanging drip  © Marcelo Leal UnsplashHealth and Inequality

In South Africa, access to health care is highly unequal, primarily along income lines at the individual or provincial level as well as other arising from other factors. Underlying the bid to control the spread of COVID-19 is the need to identify as many individuals that might have contracted the disease and isolate or quarantine them accordingly. Hence, the central role of testing and ensuring that all who require the test have access to it cannot be overstated.

Runner with dog in Madrid, Spain © Sergio Rodriguez Portugues del Olmo on UnsplashReading list: The lockdown across three viewpoints

These are the additional readings for the second blog post in our series discussing how inequality intersects with the COVID-19 pandemic. 

  1. ENCA (2020). Explainer: Ramaphosa's three-point economic COVID-19 relief plan.
  2. Chatterjee, A., Czajka, L., & Gethin, A. (2020). Estimating the Distribution of Household Wealth in South Africa. SCIS. 
  3. Mailovich, C. (2020). Locked out: society’s outcasts. Financial Mail.
  4. Patrick, A. (2020). I am at home, this is my verge: Why it's hard to stay inside when living in a township. Dispatch Live.
  5. Trenchard, T. (2020). Photos: Lockdown In The World's Most Unequal Country. NPR.
  6. Gevisser, M. (2020). How Can You Social Distance When You Share a Toilet With Your Neighbor? The New York Times.
  7. Statistics South Africa. (2018). General Household Survey 2018. Stats SA.  
  8. Maeko, T. & Mathe, T. (2020). The crisis can ‘galvanise all of us to eradicate inequality’. Mail & Guardian.
  9. Steenekamp, P. (2020). Reader Letter | Lockdown feels like we are back in apartheid days. Dispatch Live.
  10. Francis, D. & Valodia, I. (2020). South Africa needs to mitigate the worst of its inequalities in tackling coronavirusSCIS.

Photo by Simba Guzha on UnsplashSouth Africa’s COVID-19 strategy needs updating: here’s why and how

Imraan Valodia, Alex van den Heever, Lucy Allais, Martin Veller, Shabir Madhi and Willem Daniel Francois Venter

In the context of the initial uncertainty, South Africa’s early lockdown was prudent. It allowed time to prepare the health care system, to ramp up wide-spread testing and to introduce other measures to reduce transmission rates. Extending the lockdown is no longer required. It is also no longer reducing transmission rates and has become unaffordable.

Economic policy remains hotly contested in South Africa: this detailed history shows why

Edward Webster reviews the new book, Shadow of Liberation, by Vishnu Padayachee and Robert Van Niekerk. The authors revisit how economic and social policies were made from the late 1980s to the mid-1990s. The authors draw on 35 in-depth interviews with participants in the policy process. This pool of original data is complemented by a rich archive of primary and secondary sources. Together, these data sets reveal a fascinating story about who shaped these policies and how.

Runner with dog in Madrid, Spain © Sergio Rodriguez Portugues del Olmo on UnsplashThe lockdown across three viewpoints

Compiled by: David Francis and Arabo Ewinyu (SCIS) in collaboration with Andy Wassung (Soul Providers Collective)

The continued confinement to one’s own home, and the polarising experiences of and reactions to this by different classes of society, clearly expose the extreme and persistent economic and social inequalities in South Africa.

Photo credit GroundUp Masixole FeniPolicing and Protection

Compiled by: Arabo K. Ewinyu (SCIS) in collaboration with Hlabangani Mtshali (Soul Providers Collective)

A frequently reported statement in relation to COVID-19 is how the pandemic has revealed various inequalities across South African societies. However, what are these inequalities and what is the impact on these sub-populations? Over a series of blog posts, we discuss a few of these themes.


Slice of life in Soweto © Kandukuru NagarjunCoronavirus: why South Africa needs a wealth tax now

Aroop Chatterjee, Amory Gethin and Léo Czajka

A wealth tax on the top 1% of South Africans could raise R143 billion. This corresponds to 29% of the R500 billion COVID-19 package announced by the government.