Nids-Cram shows arrival of the ‘silent pandemic’

One in two people showed signs of a depressed mood.

Data from the latest National Income Dynamics Coronavirus Rapid Mobile Survey (NIDS-CRAM) shows that March 2021 employment levels were similar to February 2020 after a partial employment recovery in adjusted lockdown level 1 – with economic recovery being K-shaped.

This type of recovery is considered unequal, with the upper wing of the “K” showing the wealthy as resilient, while the lower wing demonstrates how the most vulnerable are bearing a bigger brunt.

The survey of Covid-19 impacts also reveals very high levels of depression, and confirms the global trend that indicates women have been most severely affected by job losses.

Researchers asked mental health questions in three of the five surveys and one in two people surveyed showed signs of a depressed mood, in what researchers are calling a “silent pandemic”.

Adults showing indications of higher-than-average levels of depressed mood and living in persistently large households were significantly more likely to be worried, while those living in households with more consistent access to government grants over time were less likely to be very worried, according to the study.

Women’s employment in March 2021 remains eight percent lower than pre-pandemic levels, while men’s employment seems to have recovered, the study notes. It reveals that women benefited in far lower numbers from the government's Covid-19 grants.

“Even though women accounted for the majority of the unemployed [or those not working] throughout the period, as well as the majority of the net job losses recorded between any two periods, they were under-represented in Covid-specific income support.”

The research suggests that women received only 35 percent to 39 percent of UIF-temporary employment reliefs and the social relief of distress grants. This is due to the government not allowing recipients of the child support grant to receive the Covid-19 support grants, according to Dr Nic Spaull, one of the principal investigators of the study, who is from the Economics Department at Stellenbosch University.

While male and senior level employment have returned to pre-pandemic levels, the detail contained within the research indicates stark contrasts for those in the lower income brackets.

According to the research, about 23 percent of the February 2020 employed were no longer employed a year later, and 30 percent of those without employment in February 2020 found employment by March 2021.

The latest survey data was collected between 6 April and 11 May from 5,862 people.