Cape Town – Nearly half of all South Africans have been unable to pay their debts or have lost income during the past six months, according to the 2021 SA Reconciliation Barometer (SARB).

The 2021 SARB is a nationally representative public-opinion survey conducted by the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR) and aims to provide a degree of clarity on several aspects of public opinion including South Africans’ experience during the Covid-19 pandemic.

IJR project leader Mikhail Moosa said: “To better understand the scale of the disruption caused by the national lockdowns, the 2021 SARB asked respondents a series of questions specifically about Covid-19 and reflecting on their personal well-being and distress.”

The survey found that close to 50% of all respondents have been unable to pay their debts or have lost income over the past six months due to the effects of Covid-19.

One in four respondents reported that hunger and the health of family members are their primary concerns.

Moosa said the key findings of the report are that 47% of all respondents have been unable to pay debt and that 45% lost most of their income in the past six months.

“During the same period 54% of South Africans reported losing a loved one. One in four respondents or 24% identified hunger and the health of family members as their primary concerns during this period.”

Since the release of SARB’s previous survey in December 2019, several major events have altered the trajectory of South African society, the most prominent being the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Covid-19 pandemic and the measures introduced by the government to curb the spread of the disease have had a devastating impact on South Africa’s economy and society.

Meanwhile, last week Statistics SA released the Quarterly Employment Statistics data, which showed marginal gains in overall total employment numbers.

Economist Chifi Mhango said 2021 has been a “mixed picture” with some green shoots in the first six months followed by a challenging third quarter.

Mhango said said some of the difficulties included rising unemployment levels coupled with an overall total GDP decline, the July unrest, electricity load shedding and the metals industry strike.

“Soaring fuel prices, the resumption of rolling blackouts, further job losses and the threat of a fourth wave of infection are not conducive conditions to attract much-needed investment in an economy.”

He said what was needed was the speedy implementation of the government’s economic recovery plan as announced in October 2020.

He said this, as well as other plans supporting job-creation and retention initiatives, were the only way out and would have to include a national strategic follow-up approach across all sectors of the South African economy.