The Socio-Economic Impact Of The Global Downturn On South Africa: Responses And Policy Implications

Human Sciences Research Council report prepared for Oxfam South Africa November 2010

By the end of 2008, the South African economy had begun to experience the impact of the international financial crisis. This report was prepared for Oxfam to review the range of people’s experiences and government responses. Although the macroeconomic impact of the crisis in South Africa by the time of writing was not as severe as in the West, its human and social impacts could not be ignored. Before the crisis, South Africa had enjoyed a period of relatively high growth. By the end of 2008, the economy went into recession for the first time in 17 years. A million jobs were lost from the beginning of the downturn to the first quarter of 2010. Rapid food price inflation and the economic downturn affected virtually all South Africans, and the number of food-insecure households increased. A small qualitative survey of 30 households in two poor communities shows that the crisis appeared as a gradual constriction in household options for making ends meet, rather than as a sudden, catastrophic event. Overall, the policy response of the South African government has been to reaffirm its commitment to spending in a way that underpins social protection and stimulates infrastructure development, despite falling state revenues. The increase in the number of people claiming unemployment insurance and social grants is evidence that South Africa’s social protection system is cushioning many people by protecting their incomes