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.