DIRE ECONOMIC OUTLOOK
● 2.2 million people have lost their jobs ● General worker can't afford food basket ● Many have resorted to money lending
SEVEN months of lockdown has left millions of South Africans facing starvation and increasing dependence on social grants at a time when the government is scrambling to avert a financial crisis.
Price increases on stable foods, electricity and cooking oil have left even those South Africans fortunate to have a job with not enough money to see themselves through an average month.
On Wednesday, the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity (PMEJD) project launched their expanded Household Affordability Index, which now covers four cities and towns across South Africa, including Pietermaritzburg, Cape Town, Johannesburg and Springbok, in the Northern Cape.
It provides a snapshot of a South Africa deep in an economic and social crisis where the poor are facing the worst of it.
Price increases over the lockdown period have left even those fortunate South Africans who have a job with a shortfall.
They found that a general worker on the national minimum wage of R3653.76 would not afford the Household Food Basket of R3916,72.
“Over the past several months, our incomes have come down, and the cost of goods and services has gone up. Most households living on low incomes cannot get through the month on the level of income that comes into the home and cannot afford even the very basic goods and services they need,” said Julie Smith, a researcher at the PMEJD.
“Even if entire wages were spent on food, which they are not, education, economy and social outcomes will continue to unravel and will condemn another generation to desperate poverty,” said Smith.
To cover this shortfall many have resorted to borrowing money from money lenders, who do so by offering high interest rates.
South Africa has also experienced dramatic job losses.
“Statssa’s latest job statistics for quarter two of this year shows that 2,2 million South Africans lost their jobs, and in the last quarter, the expanded unemployment rate for black South Africans is 46%,” added Smith.
The study found that some of the main foods driving up the costs of the Household Food Basket are maize meal, rice, cake flour, sugar beans, cooking oil and potatoes. This increase over the lockdown period on the Household Food Basket for Pietermaritzburg was R293,38, or 9,1%.
A local NPO has since stepped in and has fed and bathed the youngsters.
While Pink welcomes interventions, she thinks it is short-term and that the minors require sustained care.
“Donations can only last so long and what those kids need is Child Welfare to keep an eye on them for the foreseeable future.”
Child Welfare and the police did not respond to The Saturday Star’s queries on the matter.
But reports suggest the police are aware of the situation and that the family violence, child protection and sexual offences unit members conducted a preliminary investigation but no case docket had been opened.
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