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From precarity to pandemic: How the Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated poverty, unemployment, and inequality in South Africa

William Manga Mokofe


The pre-Covid-19 world of work was rife with inequalities and difficulties, with more than 40 per cent of working-age South Africans unemployed. The  majority of those in employment were barely able to eke out a living – between 20 per cent to 30 per cent were working in the informal economy,1 mostly  without labour rights and social protection and earning low incomes that trapped them in poverty. The precarious nature of the South African  labour market before the Covid-19 pandemic was characterised by casualisation, informalisation, and externalisation of work. This resulted in the  reduction of the number of workers employed for definite periods and rising levels of precarious workers. This article investigates the precarious nature  of work and the various work paradigms present in the South African labour market before the Covid-19 pandemic struck. New challenges arising from  the Covid-19 pandemic and new forms of work in the South African labour market are also considered, together with measures taken to address  precarity.