Diary Pages: Work and Income

Just as South Africa was due to move to Level Three, we asked our participants whether the Lockdown had affected their work and income, and whether this was likely to change during Level Three.

Income not affected

For several of our participants – across different areas – there had been no shift in their income due to lockdown.

‘Work has been normal on my side since the start of lockdown as my company has allowed most people to work remotely.’ – Lwanda, Imizamo Yethu

‘No my work income has not been affected and it will no change with the level 3’ – Olwethu, Imizamo Yethu

‘I am a beneficiary of the state so I get a monthly payment from Sassa. This lockdown does not affect me as I still get paid from the state.’ – Lilly, Woodstock

Diarists like Nicole reflected on how fortunate they felt not having been affected, when so many had faced unemployment or cuts to their income:

‘My income has not been affected by the lockdown at all…I am in an internship programme…I work for an insurance company which is quite a big on in South Africa. So they could still pay virtually all their employees and the ones who just started who were on commission and so forth. And funny enough today we just got an extension on our contract so we just signed those docs but gosh let me tell you this. Signing those documents I was so emotional because I literally thought of those who lost their jobs and its not joke. Like, even family members. I literally see them struggling, you know. And obviously you help when you can but you can only do so much because everyone has the responsibility. But just to think there are people who can’t afford to pay school fees, who can’t afford to pay creche fees. People who are at a peak in their life are now standing in lines to get food or you know. And it’s such a painful feeling and here I am trying to be happy for my self and my colleague, but it is also so difficult because it so close to home where people have literally lost every thing man. And, it’s so scary. But I’m content. I’m really just content. And, all I can do is that people are gonna be able to get back on their feet. So that is my thought with today. I am happy but I also feel guilty.’ – Nicole, Lavender Hill

Income had been affected

Many diarists had been affected by the Lockdown. For some, this meant a lack employment or a reduction in employment.

‘I am an artist in profession. I make stuff and sell it. I also fix stuff. With COiv, I cannot be able to sell my stuff or fix the stuff since I have to stay at home, So, yes I can say that Covid 19 has disrupted my way of making money.’ – Sibusisu, Woodstock

‘So I don’t earn a income but my sister does and yes it has been affected by the lockdown cause she doesn’t get her full salary every month and she has to take care of her baby by buying clothes and nappies. But we getting along okay with her help and the rest of our family’. – Naema, Hout Bay

‘Everyone is being affected by the pandemic it puts a toll on everything. My husband hasn’t been working since lockdown started nor has my tenants been paying their rent.’ – Bushrah, Woodstock

‘I am unfortunate unemployed. My sister is a domestic worker and is so worried about her salary as nothing has been said about getting paid. She is evwn so scared to ask her boss.’ – Lindz, Seapoint

‘Yes my work has declined – I’m a freelancer working with corporates, and most are losing money at the moment. I’d say my income has been halved.’ – Audioman, Newlands

For others it had been the opportunity to start earning an income that had been interrupted by the lockdown. Kungo, in Imizamo Yethu, for example, had just finished his studies before the lockdown was instigated. ‘The way things are looking I think it is harder”, he explained, “some companies are still closed and I don’t believe that HR Departments are going to recruit anyone new  any time soon because of the increase in numbers of infected people with (Covid-19). Secondly I don’t think the closed companies have the money to pay for new candidates‘.

COVID-19 also created indirect barriers to work. Judy, in Newlands, for example, wrote that her income had been ‘deeply’ affected, largely due to ‘having my children home and needing to home school them, with no other support. It meant I couldn’t take on new consulting work and as a result my work and income levels have taken a skydive. The commencement of level 3 won’t change that. I need my kids back at school… ‘

Government Support Mixed

Government support in the midst of these shifts seemed to be mixed. For Zizipho, in Ramaphosa, government intervention seemed to have played a role income, ‘My work /income has not been affected by the lockdown. Because the government send the intructions that says people must pay even if they are not working.’ Similarly, Ameena, in Woodstock, reported being able to access government support. ‘Defenatly the lockdown affected my income. We all getting uif funding. Usually is sell dryfruits i have not sold any since b4 lockdown as suppliers are also close’, she wrote.

Others, however, had been promised government support but it had not yet been forthcoming. Gift, in Imizamo Yethu, reported that, ‘It has changed because now we getting paid through government UIF which we still waiting on them to respond to our compy for payment.’ Similarly, Luna, in Ryterwacht, stated, ‘Let’s just say that I have not been able to draw my unemployment due to lack of something at Home Affairs…At the usual…I have not heard anything back form the SRD R350 fund‘.

‘I’ve been unemployed since last year Sept. I’ve done a few char jobs here and there. Cleaning people’s houses. That has stopped. So now I’ve got no means of an income. At all. Not even the social Relief fund is working. I’ve applied. Received the wrong numbers… I’ve just not been able to apply correctly. Apparently only 10people have received a R350 from grant funds.’ – Tiffany, Salt River

‘My source of income was affected by the lockdown. I didnt get TERS payout yet…’ – Warren, Hangberg

Level Three Will Bring a Change

Neziswa, in Shukushukuma, for example, was anticipating a return to normal. …My Husband is working only 2 weeks  per month  since Lockdown started but as from  Monday he is gonna work Normal time’, she wrote. Thomas, in the CBD, however, was expecting an improvement but not a complete return. ‘[my work] reduced by 75%. Will change during level 3, maybe 50%’, he predicted.

Sam, in Khayelitsha depended on piece work for his living. He anticipated that the opening of the economy would have a knock-on affect on his employment prospects.

‘I do not work, I am a person who lives of creating jobs for myself, but since people are going back to work that means things won’t be the same for me as well there will be people who will think of me. Plus people will want to fix their houses, and that will make things better for me because I depend on people. Thank you’ – Sam, Khayelitsha

Level Three Will Not Bring a Change

For others, Level Three would bring more of the same, either because established working practices could continue, their prospects of finding employments were slight or they worked in a sector that would remain closed. Others, like Nolwando, envisaged a slow recovery for his business, estimating that it would take around a year to recover.

‘Yhooo I am so stressed   everseens  this lockdown  started my income at  decreased .  Nope we got message  that says   we will  get paid  like until Level 2’ – Thembisile, Imizamo Yethu

‘With no tourist allowed in the country my bisniss took a big dip. I’m in the tourism industry and I’m sure theres others in the same industry also suffering but wot can we do that’s the way the cookie crumble God bless he is the knower of everything.’ – Gassie, Woodstock

For Nomaxabiso, in Khayelitsha, there was the option of potential employment but concerns about family safety had made her retiscent to return. ‘The work has affected me although I was on leave but I cannot go back to work because I have no one to look after my baby.  I can never risk and take my baby to a local creche while there is still Corona virus. So this is a dilemma for me … I just don’t know what to do’ she wrote.


What impact will the return to formal work have on informal opportunities for income generation across the country?

What impact will a phased return to work have on informal economic support networks?

How should the government reconcile the challenges of opening childcare/ schools and asking care-givers to return to work?


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