NIDS-CRAM Wave 1 Reports

1. Synthesis Reports

Spaull et al. NIDS-CRAM Wave 1 Synthesis Report: Overview and Findings.

The coronavirus pandemic is the largest social and economic shock in our lifetime. The rapid spread of this virus around the world and the economic devastation it has left in its wake is unlike anything we have seen before, at least not in our lifetimes. The local and international landscape is constantly morphing and changing in unpredictable ways making policy formulation and implementation as hard as it can possibly be. Policies that are helpful and sensible today may be harmful and illogical tomorrow. Every month seems to yield new information and consequences that were unforeseen even six weeks before. Indeed, “There are decades where nothing happens, and there are weeks where decades happen” (Lenin).

It is within this context that we have convened a national consortium of 30 social science researchers from five South African universities to conduct the National Income Dynamics Study (NIDS) Coronavirus Rapid Mobile Survey (CRAM) over the course of May – December 2020. Because decision-making is only as good as the data on which it is based, the NIDS-CRAM project exists to collect, analyze and disseminate data on a broadly representative sample of South African individuals, and to report on their employment and welfare in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.


2. Working Papers

2.1 Employment:

Casale, D. & Posel, D. (2020) Gender & the early effects of the COVID-19 crisis in the paid & unpaid economies in South Africa.

This policy paper analyses the early effects of the COVID-19 crisis and ‘hard lockdown’ period in South Africa on women’s and men’s work in the paid and unpaid (care) economies. Because women and men typically have different roles in both of these sectors, it is likely that they would experience the negative effects of the crisis unevenly, potentially exacerbating existing inequalities. Based on the first wave of the NIDS-CRAM survey, we find that women have been more severely affected than men in the early phase of the crisis in South Africa, namely the ‘hard’ lockdown period. Net job losses between February and April 2020 were higher for women than for men, with women accounting for two-thirds of the total net job losses. Among those who remained in employment, there was also a bigger fall in average hours worked per week for women than for men. Compounding these disproportionate employment losses were disproportionate increases in unpaid childcare as a result of the lockdown and school closures. While the majority of both men and women living with children reported doing large amounts of extra childcare in April, women were doing relatively more. Nearly 80% of women who were spending more time than usual on childcare were spending more than 4 extra hours a day on it, compared to 65% of men. This gender gap persists even among men and women who reported being employed in April. Understanding who bears the brunt of the crisis in the workplace and in the home is key to designing appropriate policy responses.


Jain, R., Budlender, J., Zizzamia, R., & Bassier, I. (2020) The labour market and poverty impacts of COVID-19 in South Africa.

We use a newly-released South African panel dataset to present some of the first estimates of COVID-19-related employment and poverty impacts in a developing country. We observe a 40% net decline in active employment compared to pre-lockdown. Approximately half of this decline is comprised of job terminations as opposed to temporary lay-offs or paid leave, suggesting that labour market impacts are likely to be persistent. Women, manual workers and those at the bottom half of the income distribution have suffered disproportionately higher rates of job loss. In the absence of data on prelockdown income, we cannot directly observe poverty changes over the lockdown period; instead we compare lockdown incomes of job-losers and job-retainers after DiNardo-FortinLemieux re-weighting. We estimate that 15 – 30% of job losers fall into poverty, which corresponds to approximately 1 million individuals. Social protection efforts have provided inadequate coverage to substantially mitigate this poverty impact, with only one in five temporarily unemployed workers receiving the relief designed for them, while other job-losers must rely on the existing social grant system. About one in three job losers had no social protection at all.


Köhler, T. & Bhorat, H. (2020) COVID-19, social protection, and the labour market in South Africa: Are social grants being targeted at the most vulnerable?

In light of the South African government’s pandemic-induced expansion of the country’s social protection system to provide relief to vulnerable individuals and households, this paper aims to use newly available, nationally representative survey data – Wave 1 of the NIDS-CRAM – to provide a quantitative, descriptive evaluation of whether social grants are being successfully targeted at the most vulnerable in the context of the national lockdown and COVID-19 crisis. In particular, we highlight heterogeneity in labour market outcomes before and during the national lockdown to show that social grants are an important source of income relief for individuals in low-income households. We show that these individuals have been disproportionately burdened by adverse labour market effects induced by the lockdown with respect to employment loss, the likelihood of having a paid job to return to, and reductions in working hours and earnings. We show that grants substantially increase the incomes of poor households in relative terms and, through fiscal incidence analysis, we show that the pandemic-induced additional government spending on grants have been pro-poor, especially that on the Child Support Grant. Considering the observed heterogeneity in labour market outcomes before and during lockdown across the household income distribution and that grants are relatively well-targeted, we conclude with a set of policy recommendations for South Africa’s social protection system going forward.


Ranchhod, V. & Daniels, R. C (2020) Labour market dynamics in the time of COVID-19.

The COVID-19 pandemic is a health crisis that will exacerbate the South African unemployment crisis. As a temporary measure, the lockdown has prevented a substantial number of people from going to work. In addition, the longer term implications of a global recession have not been adequately recognized. This paper conducts an analysis of labour market dynamics in South Africa during the initial period of lockdown, from the end of March to the end of April 2020, using the first wave of the NIDS-CRAM (2020) survey. Within our sample of over 6000 adults aged 18 to 59, we found that there was a very large decrease in employment. The fraction of the sample that was conventionally classified as employed decreased from 57% in February to 48% in April. If we further exclude temporarily absent workers, this fraction decreases further to 38%. Thus, about one of every 3 employed people in our sample either lost their job or did not work and received no wages during April. This has extremely large implications for poverty and welfare. We further analyse the labour market by comparing across demographic groups as defined by race, by gender, by age groups, by geographic areas, and by education levels. The over-arching finding from this analysis is that the job losses were not uniformly distributed amongst the different groups. In particular, groups who have always been more vulnerable – such as women, African/Blacks, youth, and less educated groups – have been disproportionately negatively affected. In addition to the poverty implications, this will also likely affect the inequality situation in South Africa.


Rogan, M. & Skinner, C. (2020) ‘The COVID-19 crisis and the South African informal economy: ‘Locked out’ of livelihoods and employment’.

There is widespread recognition, both internationally and in South Africa, that the measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 have impacted particularly negatively on informal workers, whose jobs are precarious, who often depend on daily earnings for survival, and who lack legal and social protections. However, it is also likely that these impacts have been experienced unevenly by different groups of workers within the informal economy. In many contexts, the current moment has been described as a ‘triple crisis’ consisting of a health, economic and care crisis that impacts on women more than men. This paper analyses the first wave of the NIDS-CRAM survey in order to identify how the effects of the COVID-19 crisis differ within the informal economy and, in particular by gender and type of employment (by self-employment, informal wage employment and casual employment). We find that just under a third (31%) of informal workers who did not lose their livelihoods completely, were ‘locked out’ of employment in April – compared with 26% of those in formal employment. Among those who were employed informally in February and April, women in the informal economy saw a decrease of 49% in the typical hours worked in April while men in informal employment saw a 25% decrease in typical hours. The decrease in hours worked within the informal economy was greatest for the self-employed where average hours decreased by a third and typical hours decreased by more than 50%. Not surprisingly, these large reductions in hours coincided with earnings losses in the informal economy. Among the informal self-employed who were working in both months, average earnings decreased by 27% and typical earnings by 60%. For women in informal self-employment, typical earnings decreased by nearly 70% between February and April. These findings suggest that, as the pandemic unfolds in South Africa, current interventions need to be significantly scaled-up and far better targeted at informal workers, in general, and women informal workers in particular.


2.2 Welfare:

Posel, D. & Casale, D. (2020) Who moves during times of crisis? Mobility, living arrangements and COVID-19 in South Africa.

The COVID-19 lockdown, the requirement that people “shelter-in-place”, the physical closure of learning institutions, and the suspension or loss of employment, changed the living arrangements of a sizeable share of South Africans. For some, the change was temporary, while for others, it may be more longlasting. As the effects of the pandemic and ensuing economic contraction ripple through the labour market, more people are expected to move into different households and to rely on kin and social networks in the absence of other means of economic support. In this paper, we explore the spatial connectedness of the South African population, both from the perspective of households which are “stretched” to include non-resident members, and from the perspective of adults who moved during the early stages of the lockdown. In doing so, we highlight the importance, but also the limitations, of living arrangements and kin networks in helping to absorb the costs of the COVID-19 crisis.


Van der Berg, S., Zuze, L., & Bridgman, G. (2020) Coronavirus, Lockdown and Children: Some impacts of the current crisis in child welfare using data from NIDS-CRAM Wave 1.

Child hunger in South Africa declined after introduction of the child support grant. Despite the 2007/8 recession and slow economic growth since, child hunger more than halved from being reported in 35% of households in 2002 to 16% in 2018 in the General Household Survey. However, the pandemic reversed many of the gains. In newly collected data from Wave 1 of the NIDS-CRAM study, 15% of respondents reported that a child in their household had gone hungry in the week before they were interviewed in May or June. For the month of April, 47% of respondents reported that their household had run of money (the first month of the lockdown, before social relief measures were instituted). A much lower percentage, only 25%, reported that they had run out of money for food in the past year in 2018, a far less strict criterion. Loss of main income source between February and April, largely as a result of the lockdown, is strongly associated with a higher likelihood of child hunger in households. There is some shielding of children by adults: Child hunger is much lower than for other household members, and many households running out of money for food do not report child hunger. Drawing down savings, borrowing and depending on the generosity of others may have acted as a shield for child hunger in this initial lockdown period. This cannot continue indefinitely. A short analysis of social grants and school meals points to their importance for reducing child hunger, but also highlights their limitations at a time of great economic trauma.


Wills, G., Patel, L., Van der Berg, S., & Mpeta, B. (2020) Household resource flows and food poverty during South Africa’s lockdown: Short-term policy implications for three channels of social protection.

In response to the COVID-19 crisis, and the anticipated socio-economic impacts of a hard lockdown, the South African government has leveraged three channels of social protection to protect livelihoods: social insurance, a social assistance programme of grants and localised social relief efforts. Using a mixed methods approach, this policy report highlights that while the response from government and the social sector has been commendable, large groups of households are experiencing tremendous hardship as a direct consequence of the lockdown. New evidence from a telephonic survey suggests that 2 of every 5 adults reported that their household lost its main source of income since lockdown started in South Africa on the 27th of March 2020. This has had devastating consequences for food insecurity and household hunger. Of interviewed adults, 47% reported that their household ran out of money to buy food in April. Between May and June 2020, 21% reported that someone in the household went hungry in the last 7 days and 15% reported that a child went hungry in the last 7 days. To stave off mass, chronic hunger we simply cannot let up on the support being provided to households through all three channels of social protection. Failure to do so could deepen an emerging humanitarian crisis, hamper economic recovery, and threaten socio-political stability.


2.3 Health:

Burger, R., Christian, C., Maughan-Brown, B., Rensburg, R & Rossouw, L. (2020) COVID-19 risk perception knowledge and behaviour.

The rapid spread of COVID-19 in South Africa threatens to amplify an unequal and polarised health system, with poor and vulnerable populations bearing a greater share of the COVID-19 infection and mortality burden. Available evidence suggests that preventative measures would have a protective effect against the spread of the virus. However, the success of these measures depends on whether the public receives, internalises and acts on appropriate messaging. Given our reliance on preventative measures for containing the spread of COVID-19, compliance with preventative measures is lower than desired. Energy is frequently misdirected: with higher compliance with low-impact measures aimed at preventing atypical transmissions via surfaces and lower compliance with a first-best set of preventative measures such as avoiding people, physical distancing and mask-wearing that aim to prevent droplet transmission, which is more typical. It is also concerning that only 6% of respondents in our NIDS-CRAM survey knew the three most common COVID-19 symptoms. This lack of knowledge may hamper early identification which is key to stopping the spread of COVID-19. It is discouraging to see that high-risk groups such as the elderly and those with chronic


Burger, R., Nkonki, L., Smith, A., Rensburg, R., & van Schalkwyk, C. (2020) Measuring the public health cost of COVID-19 control efforts.

Our study examined the unintended health consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic in South Africa. We considered access to acute and chronic care amongst the general population with our NIDSCRAM (Coronavirus Rapid Rapid Mobile Survey) telephone interviews, and access to vaccinations, ARTs and antenatal care by pregnant women and women with infants in the public sector with our MATCH (Maternal and Child Health) SMS survey. We find that within the range of care and treatment types that we examined, the impact has been varied, with the highest-stakes type of care seemingly least affected. Chronic care and care of infants have been least affected. We find that 22% of those who needed acute health care, did not seek care. Also, 16% of pregnant women and mothers of infants in our public sector sample have not been to the clinic for two months. We find it particularly concerning that 11% of our sample of public sector expectant mothers or mothers with infants have run out of ARTs. Overwhelmingly, fear of contracting the Coronavirus is the most frequently cited reason for not seeking care or not accessing treatment.


Nwosu, C. & Oyenubi, A (2020) Estimating income-related health inequalities associated with COVID-19 in South Africa.

The coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) has resulted in an unprecedented dislocation of society especially in South Africa. The South African government has imposed a number of measures aimed at controlling the epidemic, chief being a nationwide lockdown. This has resulted in income loss for firms and individuals, with vulnerable populations (low earners, those in informal and precarious employment, etc.) more likely to be adversely affected through job losses and the resulting income loss. Income loss will likely result in reduced ability to access healthcare and a nutritious diet, thus adversely affecting health outcomes. Given the foregoing, we hypothesize that the economic dislocation caused by the coronavirus will disproportionately affect the health of the poor. Using the fifth wave of the National Income Dynamics Study (NIDS) dataset conducted in 2017 and the first wave of the NIDS-Coronavirus Rapid Mobile Survey (NIDS-CRAM) dataset conducted in May/ June 2020, this paper estimated income-related health inequality in South Africa before and during the COVID-19 epidemic. Health was a dichotomized self-assessed health measure, with fair or poor health categorized as “poor” health, while excellent, very good and good health were categorized as “non-poor” health. Household per capita income was used as the ranking variable. Concentration curves and indices were used to depict the income-related health inequalities. Furthermore, we decomposed the COVID-19 era income-related health inequality in order to ascertain the significant predictors of such inequality. The results indicate that poor health was pro-poor in the pre-COVID-19 and COVID-19 periods with the latter six times the value of the former. Being African (relative to white), per capita household income and household experience of hunger significantly explained income-related health inequalities in the COVID-era, while being in paid employment had a nontrivial if statistically insignificant effect. Addressing racial disparities, tackling hunger, income inequality and unemployment will likely mitigate income-related health inequalities in South Africa during the COVID-19 epidemic.


Insight Briefs

The Insight Briefs series are commissioned papers on topics that are not covered in the NIDS-CRAM data but are important for policy makers to understand.

Gustafsson M,. & Nuga C (2020) How is the COVID-19 pandemic affecting educational quality in South Africa? Evidence to date and future risks

Educational quality has been improving in South Africa, off a low base, according to international testing programmes. Yet this trajectory was fragile already before the COVID-19 pandemic. Models recently developed to understand the impact of the pandemic on educational quality, when applied to South Africa, reveal trends which are worrying. Learning losses can be expected to exceed what is suggested by actual days of schooling lost, as prolonged closures result in the forgetting of skills acquired before the closure. Depending on how successful the efforts of the schooling system and individual teachers are in catching up lost learning, below-expected Grade 12 outcomes lasting to at least 2022, and possibly as far as 2031, could be experienced. This will compromise progress in the post-school education sector, and productivity in the labour market. Two drivers of past improvements in learning outcomes seem particularly vulnerable to the impacts of the pandemic: access to educational materials by learners could be reduced as budgets are cut; and participation in pre-schools could drop as poor households become unable to pay fees. Even before the pandemic, it was clear that further qualitative improvement would require innovation in the schooling sector. Two areas of innovation should continue to receive attention in the coming years: taking to scale new methods in the teaching of early grade reading which government’s own research has found to be effective; and building better school accountability systems, within the framework offered by the National Development Plan.


Smith., Peter., Ranchhod., Strugnell., Wishnia.(2020) The economy-linked impact of COVID-19 on mortality and health.

The potential public health consequences of Covid-19 have led governments around the globe to take extraordinary measures to protect citizens’ health and their countries’ health systems. Covid-19 and the associated lockdown decisions have created severe restrictions on the supply- and demand-sides of the South African economy which are likely to deepen the existing recession. There is a large body of international evidence on the relationship between economic recessions and mortality but little of it focuses on low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). On balance international evidence points to recessions leading to a short-term increase in mortality in LMICs, due mainly to unemployment and loss of income. The channels for and types of mortality and ill health are complex and varied. In LMICs and in South Africa specifically, health areas that are likely to be most impacted include infectious diseases (e.g. HIV and TB), non-communicable diseases including preventable cancers, and child health. Data from the NIDS-CRAM Wave 1 survey show that child hunger and general hunger are at high levels and are concerning for future health impacts, in particular, for infectious diseases and child health. A number of policy recommendations are shared that can mitigate the impacts of the economy on health.



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