Cape Town 18-02-21 A man is seen pushing a trolley with recycled wood, plastic and metal along Bluegum street in Bonteheuwel. The unemployment rate in South Africa increased to 27.7 percent in the first quarter of 2017 from 26.5 percent in the previous period. Picture Henk Kruger/ African News Agency (ANA)
Cape Town 18-02-21 A man is seen pushing a trolley with recycled wood, plastic and metal along Bluegum street in Bonteheuwel. The unemployment rate in South Africa increased to 27.7 percent in the first quarter of 2017 from 26.5 percent in the previous period. Picture Henk Kruger/ African News Agency (ANA)

Migrants greatly affected by Covid-19 economic impact

By Zintle Mahlati Time of article published Dec 17, 2020

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Johannesburg - Migrants in South Africa who are mostly employed in the informal sector have likely been hard hit by the economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

These are the conclusions which form part of Statistics SA's demographic impact report which aimed to track how the pandemic impacted mortality, fertility and migration.

The pandemic has had a devastating economic and health impact. On the economic front, the government-imposed hard lockdown in March saw various businesses close and left many people without an income.

While the government had introduced initiatives such as the UIF Ters benefit to help cushion the blow for workers unable to earn an income, those in the informal sector did not benefit.

The informal economy includes industries such as street vendors, the taxi industry and domestic workers.

What makes these areas vulnerable is that in many instances no contributions are made on their behalf to the UIF. This results in the individuals being unable to benefit financially from the UIF Ters benefits and many are left without an income.

In data collected by Stats SA in the 2017 quarterly labour force survey, which collects migration patterns in the workforce, a grim picture emerged of how migrants were mostly employed in the informal economy.

"The majority of the migrant population work in the informal sector (more than half), whilst only about a third (28.4%) of the non-migrant population work in the informal sector. This indicates that the majority of the migrant population work in an unprotected sector with little to no safety nets," the report stated.

Regarding UIF and job security, data showed that the most migrants, 55.6%, did not work for any employer who contributed to the UIF.

"Only around 60% of migrants had an employment contract, which signifies that migrants had the lowest job security from this perspective.

“Having a position of unspecified duration leads to no job security or stability," the report stated.

The report concluded that a shift had to be made in how the public viewed migration and employment patterns in South Africa. Data showed that migrants would be likely to be left vulnerable in situations brought about by the coronavirus pandemic.

"These results highlight the situation that many to most of the migrants in South Africa find themselves working in. Whilst the public often highlight the notion that a higher proportion of migrants than non-migrants (those born in South-Africa) are employed, quality and stability of employment is not taken into account."

Political Bureau

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