IFAS-Research Newsletter : Informality and Covid-19 in South Africa

As part of its scientific and academic vocation, and in the context of the health crisis linked to the coronavirus, IFAS-Research has launched a collective research project with the aim of understanding the effects of the 2020 pandemic on informal workers in South Africa.

To this end, in June 2020, IFAS-Research has called upon Dr. Chaymaa Hassabo, Associate Researcher at the Department of Sociology of the University of Johannesburg (UJ), to design and coordinate a field survey with a team of four young researchers from Southern Africa. Her ambition was to measure the social and economic effects of the pandemic on informal workers, who make up nearly 30% of the country’s workforce, in the light of their life trajectories. This survey, based on quantitative and qualitative data collected during 204 questionnaire interviews and 51 in-depth interviews, proposes a micro-sociological approach of the health crisis. The project, carried out in difficult conditions between August and October, will hopefully be extended, deepened and cross-checked in 2021 with other locally conducted studies, in partnership with South African academic centres.

On November 19th, IFAS-Research organised a seminar as part of the “Informality and Covid-19 in South Africa” project launched a few months ago. The main results of this research were presented and discussed. Based on the quantitative and qualitative data collected during the interviews with vulnerable workers – from car guards to street vendors and waste reclaimers –, the researchers presented the main results of the survey, which show the impoverishment of the vast majority of informal workers during the months of ‘hard lockdown’, with an average loss of 50% of income.

An idea emerged along the way: the production of a documentary film based on four filmed interviews. This documentary aims to give a voice to informal workers and to understand in a concrete way how the pandemic has impacted their daily lives. The documentary, entitled What am I going to eat tomorrow?” Informal workers during the Covid-19 pandemic in Johannesburg, was launched during the seminar and is available on IFAS-Research’s YouTube channel : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Kjpil3MNBE&t=165s

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