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PBM organisation highlights families’ struggles to make ends meet

It can appear like a dark tunnel ahead when your income is insufficient to pay for cost of living, and a debt spiral looms.

Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity last week released its latest update on the cost of living and food prices – the Household Affordability Index.

The PMB-based organisation pointed out the continued stresses families are under trying to keep their heads above water and put food on the table.

Why feeding the family just got so much harder

“Between July 2020 and August 2020, the cost of the monthly Household Food Basket increased by 1.7% (R57.85),” it noted. “Over the past five months of lockdown, the cost of the basket increased by 7.8% (R249,99), while year-on-year the cost has increased by 13.2% (R403,46). The total cost of the basket in August is R3 470.99.”

Read the full report here

The median wage in the country is R3 500 and there are fears that many families are sacrificing nutritious food to pay for fixed costs such as accommodation and transport (to get to work, if still employed). ** The national minimum wage at R20.76 an hour works out to R3321.60 a month.

The cost of basic, nutritious foods is out of reach for many SA families.

Withdraw top-ups

PMBEJD said: “Government’s intervention to top-up the social grants was necessary. The top-ups have helped, but they have not been enough. The top-ups, while absorbing some of the food price escalations have not been sufficient to protect families from the impact of the lockdown or Covid-19. The situation would not have changed enough by October 2020 for the top-ups to be withdrawn. If we withdraw the top-ups too soon, millions of households will be in a worse position then they were pre-Covid; and be plunged into a depth of poverty that this country has not yet seen.”

It said SA Africa seemed to be coming around to the realisation that Covid-19 is not just something that has a short-term period of economic consequences.

“Most of us are not yet aware of the depth of the consequences (households are not absorbing the shock of Covid and the lockdown – Covid has broken people; it has broken things), nor that even the extended period of consequences will be much longer then is currently supposed; nor of the magnitude of the changes and socio-economic and socio-political disruptions ahead of us.”

It suggested that the top-ups be made permanent and increased to enable a more substantial framework of support to families.

Latest SA information
Population: 59.7 million
Unemployment: 30.1%
Expanded unemployment rate: 39.7%
Number of people employed: 16.4 million
Number of people unemployed: 10.8 million
Median wage: R3 500
Cost of feeding a family a basic nutritious diet per month:
Household with 4 members: R2 519.57
Household with 5 members: R3 184.48
Household with 7 members: R4 404.84

Many households in SA are under immense strain and struggling to put food on the table.

It’s estimated that in August 2020, families with seven members underspent on basic nutritious food by 21% (-R933,85).

**The Household Affordability Index has been designed in conversation with women living on low incomes in Pietermaritzburg. Its purpose is to provide a lens into the affordability crisis facing households living on low incomes by looking at wage and social grant levels and the costs of goods and services reasonably expected to be covered by this low income. It further provides a measure of inflation as experienced by households living on low incomes.

For more info contact Mervyn Abrahams, Programme Coordinator, Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice & Dignity Group. Email: mervyn@pmbejd.org.za

Dark days for business

TimesLive reported that the Covid-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc for many local businesses, with 76% reporting revenue losses since March this year and many forced to change their business models.

This was revealed in a national survey on the business impact of the pandemic conducted by a specialist management consultancy firm, Redflank.

Now read: Covid-19 flattens personal finances

The report showed 76% of the companies surveyed had seen their revenues shrink, and 23% have had to shut down, either temporarily or permanently.

Only 2% reported growth, and 56% said they were working under reduced capacity, according to Redflank.

The survey was conducted with almost 2,000 companies, TimesLIVE reported.

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