South Africa’s working population is under financial pressure due to a rise in monthly expenses compounded by a weak economy, rising inflation and interest rates. This is according to a Cape Town-based debt Review Company.
Their research shows that while food inflation and transport costs continue to rise, wages remain flat, forcing consumers to take on a lot more unsecured debt. Experts say the financial pressure workers suffer is taking a toll on their overall mental wellbeing.
According to DebtBusters evidence of the financial pressure workers are experiencing can be seen in the increase in the number of debt counselling enquiries.
The company’s Debt Index shows that debt counselling enquiries grew by more than 32% in January 2022 compared to January 2021.
Chief Operating Officer at Debt Busters’ Benay Sager says, “Incomes really haven’t changed over the last three years and if you think about the pressures consumers are under. There is inflation, particularly when it comes to food and electricity, there are interest rates that have gone up which generally impacts middle to higher-income earners. All of those are putting more pressure on the consumer in terms of their need to borrow, and as a result they borrow, and as a result of their tapping much more into their credit cards, tapping much more into personal loans.”
Business Manager at Debt Rescue, Annaline van der Poel says debt counselling is the most effective way of elevating the financial stress that indebted workers suffer.
“It cannot be overstated how important factor a person’s finances are in the bigger picture of their life. It’s significant and it really carries a lot of weight on your mental health. So if you’re constantly having to be worried about I don’t know if I can pay my bills, how am I gonna pay my rent, how am I going to buy food for my kids how am I going to pay school fees and so forth. Especially if you start being hounded by collectors who are calling all hours of the day while you’re at work etc. the impact is enormous. And knowing that with the debt counselling, it’s a legal process it’s binding, everybody respects the process and knows that it’s a sustainable solution.”
A 2020 study by the University of Cape Town into emerging literature on debt and mental health shows that being highly indebted is stressful and leads to psychological problems.