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  • Writer's pictureMichélle Khaja

How Covid-19 Influenced South Africans

Let's be honest, who has Covid-19 not affected? For a majority of industries in South Africa, it has been destructive and crippling. You don't need to look further than the tourism industry to see the devastation for the working people, but our focus today is not just on the tourism industry - the effects felt throughout every individual in their career life, personal life and mental health.

Since President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the lockdown in March 2020, the devastation of the pandemic has wrecked established careers and the hopes of job seekers in South Africa. This has caused the unemployment rate to escalate alarmingly and by December 2020, over 11 million people, all working-age, were left unemployed. And shockingly, the youth and woman were most affected.

But those were employed individuals, what about those looking for jobs?

Well, simple - they were left behind, hit hard from the recession before Covid-19, the pandemic was simply too much to handle. Their hopes for finding a job or career were bulldozed. The fight for work in an already under-skilled South Africa became futile.

Now, what about the personal life of South Africans? The majority of South Africans saw everything come to a halt. No more was there a thing of an outing with friends to the bar, getting a bite to eat at a restaurant with long-seen family or simply just going outside for fresh air. Everyone was stuck at home, nationalism still high as all South Africans to defeat this virus. Besides, it would only be for a few weeks... Right?

Alright - none of that looks very good for the people of South Africa, so what about mental health? A recent study from March 2021 found assessed the effect of job loss and job furlough on the mental health of individuals in South Africa during the pandemic. The results are astonishing. It revealed that people who retained paid employment had significantly lower depression scores than those who lost employment or funds.

These negative effects are indisputable, but was there anything positive that came from the pandemic?

Thankfully, it has directed the spotlight on career development. Companies and managers need to help focus on helping employees define and grow along their career path, not became stagnant in a role with no skill development. This rise in teaching new skills to employees is essential as we saw during the pandemic.

As we saw above, the mental health and support system of South Africans have been dismantled with burnout being a bigger possibility than ever before. Employees and Job seekers are prioritising their health and wellness above salary.

The Covid-19 pandemic also saw the rise of working from home. More people had the opportunity to balance their work-life with their family life due to the ability to work from home. This is probably the biggest impact of Covid-19 that South Africans will continue to support and demand in the future. Long hours at the office won't be prominent in the future of South Africa.

Now, we South Africans simply need to fix everything else in our labour market...

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