There’s mounting pressure on family budgets as savings dwindle, and costs increase. South Africans were already living in debt before the coronavirus pandemic, but the consequences of the lockdown have added extra strain on the finances of the country’s citizens…

And it’s not just South Africans who are tightening their belts. “Groceries, household supplies, and utility bills top the international list of higher cost items,” according to a global survey by Ipsos.

“The majority of people in 26 countries say the overall cost of food, goods and services have increased for them and their families since the coronavirus outbreak commenced.”

Argentina, South Africa and Mexico (81%), Turkey (80%) and Chile and Belgium (79%) top the list of countries whose citizens say they are experiencing increases.

Women worry more

In South Africa, women are more worried about this issue than men, with 84% of women and 77% of men saying that the overall cost of necessities have increased over the last few months.

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The poll also shows that the elderly are being negatively affected with 87% of those 50 years and older saying that costs have increased a lot or somewhat.

This is echoed in the March/June results of the PMBEJD June 2020 Household Affordability Index. According to researchers, the PMBEJD Household Food Basket increased by 8,2% (R265) between March 2020 and June 2020, and now costs R3 486.

Taxi fare hikes and annual electricity price increases will also add to costs.

“With no increase in income, the imminent taxi fare and electricity hikes in the face of the substantial spikes in the cost of the household food basket will act to deepen the crisis in homes,” according to the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice & Dignity Group (PMBEJD) report.

“Currently, on our data, workers spend about 50,9% of the National Minimum Wage on transport and electricity expenses alone.  The money remaining is not enough for families to secure proper nutritious food or to pay for other critical expenses.  If the proposed taxi fare hikes of between R4 to R5 on local routes (nationally), and electricity tariffs of 6,9% (in Pietermaritzburg) are implemented, then workers will have to spend 62% of the wage just on transport and electricity.  Even more food will have to be removed off the plate to pay for transport and electricity costs.”

South Africans strongly feel that food and utility prices increased extraordinarily in comparison with other costs

The opinions of online South Africans about cost increases per item are summarised as:

Why costs increased

Having to purchase more expensive items at limited open stores led to an increase in costs. Many people also said they had to pay delivery charges due to store closures.

One in every ten (11%) of online South Africans indicated that they had to pay for medical treatment because of Covid-19, while 89% did not have this expense (It is not clear whether this payment was for them personally or for a member of their family, a friend, or another person).

Globally, most people (95%) also said they didn’t have medical expenses related to Covid-19.

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