Level 3 restrictions will cost one in twelve South Africans their job


Co-authored with economist Mike Schussler of

NEARLY 1,4 million formal and informal jobs are at risk in the South African economy with the present level 3 restrictions impacting directly across at least seven sectors.

Sectors such as travel, tourism, entertainment, leisure, manufacturing, agriculture, and service not elsewhere classified.

The total number of people employed across these sectors equates to one in 12 jobs being directly at risk of destruction. If one includes family and dependents as a reflection of the normal size of households, the level 3 restrictions could impact millions more as they rely on the bread winner wages.

As many also help dependants outside the immediate family, the overall number of people impacted could be as much as 10% of the South African population.

Remember, too, that South Africa is often credited with the highest unemployment rate in the world. The impact will be felt even if only half of the jobs at risk are destroyed.

Some provinces such as the Western and Northern Cape have even higher numbers: One in six jobs in the Western Cape and one in five in the Northern Cape are at risk.

While the Eastern Cape has only one in 13 jobs at risk, the impact could be greater as the provincial extended unemployment rate could increase to close to 60%. Measured differently, the risk for the Eastern Cape is that only one in four adults will have a job if the jobs at risk are destroyed.

While metropolitan unemployment rates are generally lower than rural unemployment rates, all eight metros in the country could end up with extended unemployment rates above 40%. One, Nelson Mandela Bay, would have an unemployment rate of over 50%. Two others, Mangaung and Ekurhuleni, could have unemployment rates of close to 50%.

Limpopo and the Eastern Cape already have the highest unemployment rates in the country, so any, even small increase would have a devastating impact.

Overall, South African unemployment could rise from 43,1% to 51,6% within a year, driven by the potential level 3 job losses. And increasing job seekers.

In addition to these unacceptable job losses, the level 3 restrictions are having detrimental repercussions for the turnover of industry as well.

The formal private sector turnover of the industries impacted by the restrictions was R69 billion a month in 2019. The formal private sector is at risk of losing 8,1% of its turnover every month that the restrictions remain using Annual Financial statistics.

The estimated impact across these sectors is a reduction of at least 60% in turnover. This means that R41,4 billion is lost every month that the restrictions remain.

The formal salaries paid to employees in these sectors is R9,6 billion per month. Personal income tax is estimated at R1,5 billion per month. Adding agriculture and informal employee income would be close to R10,5 million.

The knock-on impact can be seen by the fact that these industries buy R38,7 billion worth of goods from other sectors every month; spend R1,5 million on advertising as well as fixed costs such as rent, leases, and interest of R4,6 billion per month.

Moreover, these sectors pay R7,6 billion in taxes every month (excluding employees’ PAYE mentioned above). These taxes are made up of VAT, excise duties, and company taxes.

The total taxes combined are well over R9 billion for the formal sector alone per month. Adding things like passenger taxes and tourism spend along with the informal sector VAT spend, the impact of the level 3 restrictions on the fiscus is certainly well over R10 billion per month.

The fact that the government extracts over R10 billion per month from these industries during normal times, but cannot find any funds to help them when they are in trouble, is economically short-sighted.

Keeping these businesses alive and operating as far as possible, while they take precautions against the COVID-19 pandemic, will help pay for the now bigger deficit even in the short-term.

Over a maximum period of six years, a relief package that helps the whole industry for three months at a rate of just over R10 billion will have been more than paid back. Government relief on that scale will also mean that banks will be more likely to help restructure repayments, and suppliers would also be able to help with more finance, too.

Moreover, paying employees extra via TERS would also help greatly.

No one can go 10 months with restrictive earnings as a result of harsh restrictions without any government relief.

Government has a moral duty to not cause business failure, as well as to avoid mass hunger. It must immediately open the economy back up again and allow businesses to take the necessary hygienic precautions without undue interference. PM


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