COVID-19 will lead to major setbacks in addressing poverty, unemployment and inequality and make many South Africans fall off the middle-class to below the poverty datum line, said the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in a study on the socio-economic impact of COVID-19 in South Africa.

The study showed that 34 percent of households are likely to exit the middle-class into vulnerability.

“While government social protection grants tend to target the poorest, this study posits that care and support needs to be provided to those at the borderline of the poverty line, such as the vulnerable middle-class, to reduce their likelihood of slipping into poverty,” said UN resident coordinator Nardos Bekele-Thomas.

UNDP said 54 percent of households that have been pushed out of permanent jobs to informal or temporary contracts are likely to fall into poverty after the six-month stimulus package is over.

Khumbulile Thabethe, a single parent with three children said the COVID-19 have hit her hard and she is struggling to survive.

“I have had to prioritize food over winter clothing for my three kids. Lockdown started in the warmer months and as we moved to the colder months, I could not cope,” she said.

Populations, especially hard-hit, are already-impoverished female-headed households, persons with only primary education, persons without social assistance, black populations, and heads of households who have been pushed from permanent to informal employment, the UNDP’s report said.

The UNDP predicted South Africa’s economy to contract by at least 5.1 and up to 7.9 percent in 2020 and recover slowly through 2024.

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