Women in informal sector suffered the most during COVID-19: Survey

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A study conducted by Rhodes University, in partnership with the University of Cape Town, found that the typical earnings of women in the informal self-employed sector decreased by nearly 70% since the beginning of the pandemic.

The study analysed the effects of the pandemic on the informal economy.

Right2Know urges government to prioritise women in post-COVID-19 recovery efforts:

The picture that’s emerged about job losses is just as alarming. An estimated three million jobs were lost due to the pandemic, but two million of those were held by women.

Professor Michael Rogan says the telephone survey quizzed more than 7 000 individuals.

“Two researches from Wits University used the same data that I have analysed and found that out of the three million jobs that were probably lost in April due to lockdown and the pandemic, two million of those were lost by women. So it really does seem that this she section has come about in South Africa as well.”

He says the results of the research highlighted the existing struggles women faced in the labour market.

“This crisis has shown the pre-existing inequalities and vulnerabilities so South African women have been disadvantaged in the labour market before this crisis and will continue to be. And on top of those vulnerability, they really were in the front of this crisis.”

Women tavern owners more concerned about facing poverty than contracting COVID-19:

COVID-19 relief grant

Prof Rogan says the research concluded that men received more support than women during this time.

“If we look at the special COVID-19 grant that the government has rolled out, two third of those have been awarded to men. So there’s a little bit of a lop-sided picture of the support package; women were disadvantaged more than men but the special COVID- grant was received by men.”

Economic activity

The economy is getting back on track on many levels. Street vendors in Port Elizabeth are trading again, but the lockdown stifled their meagre income.

“I had to close and stay at home. It was very tough, I was very hungry because I did not make any money and we often wondered where our next meal would come from. I am happy to be back, but things are different; I have a lot of catching up to do,” one vendor said.

“I did not close; even during Level 5, I would sit here because I needed money, I needed food. Yes, I was scared for my life, but no one offered to help us so I had to keep selling to put food on the table,” another vendor said.

The research found that women in the informal economy worked less than half of the typical hours per month from before than during the lockdown. However, again men were better off, only losing a quarter of their working hours in the pandemic.

The study recommends that the bulk of support should be directed to women as they are economically vulnerable and were severely affected by the economic shutdown.