Ina Opperman

By Ina Opperman

Business Journalist

South Africans worry more about money than Covid-19 – survey

Instead of following the rest of the world, South Africans are most concerned about their finances.


South Africans worry more about their money, even more than the health impact of Covid-19, according to a new survey.

It is not surprising seeing that Covid-19 began as a health pandemic and has now transformed into a full-blown financial crisis around the world.

Deloitte’s latest State of the Consumer tracker, which measures consumer sentiment across 18 countries for March 2021, indicates that while anxiety levels are declining in most regions, countries such as India, Chile, South Africa, Italy and Ireland reported rising anxiety levels.

ALSO READ: Covid-19: Chat to experts about anxiety and depression during lockdown

Consumers in these countries reported their anxiety had increased in the last week, with Indian consumers 27% anxious, followed by South Africa at 12% compared to anxiety levels declining by at least 10% in the US, UK and Japan. Covid-19 remains the primary anxiety driver, except in South Africa where financial concerns took centre stage.

While 75% of South African respondents said financial stress was the main driver causing anxiety, 58% also listed Covid-19 as a concern, with 65% reporting anxiety about personal wellbeing and 79% worrying about their family’s health.

ALSO READ: Isolation, financial stress lead to lockdown mental health pandemic

Worrying about money

More than half of consumers, 55%, said they were delaying large purchases, while 45% were worried about upcoming payments, 56% were worried about losing their jobs and 33% were worried about returning to work.

“Consumers are being hit by twin concerns for their health and livelihoods. Navigating these concerns is leading to a profound shift in consumer behaviour, with South Africans choosing to spend more time at home and exercising caution around big-ticket items and discretionary purchases,” said Rodger George, Africa consumer consulting leader at Deloitte.

ALSO READ: As virus fears and anxiety mount, look after your mental health

Safety concerns

Falling Covid-19 cases has influenced safety perceptions, with a gradual return to more risk-controlled activities. A total of 55% of consumers feel safe going to the store and 47% feel safe engaging in in-person services, such as hairdressers, doctors or dentists, with only 34% feeling safe taking a flight and 36% feeling safe staying in a hotel.

However, financial pressures also limited consumers’ ability to participate in previous activities, with 41% saying they do not have enough money to cover their expenses.

More vaccinations, less worry?

It is expected that more details of South Africa’s vaccine rollout will help to ease anxiety:

  • 24% of respondents are unsure when they will be vaccinated
  • 19% say they will refuse to be vaccinated
  • 16% expect that they will only be vaccinated at the end of the year
  • More than 33% expect to be vaccinated in the next six months
  • Almost 80% expressed concern around health.

ALSO READ: Re-entry anxiety: Why people fear going out post-lockdown

How consumers are handling concerns about money and health

Consumers are responding to their concerns about health and income by choosing to do more at home, a trend that is likely to continue post-pandemic. They do things at home such as cooking, buying fresh food, streaming entertainment, shopping online and improving their homes.

On the other hand, activities such as eating at a restaurant, going to the gym, staying at a hotel and taking a flight are seen as higher risk. Even post-pandemic these activities will continue to be less popular than before.

Also read: How to manage coronavirus anxiety

Consumer spending on essential items such as groceries, household goods and medicine has remained constant, or even increased, but discretionary spending is still limited. Almost 80% of consumers are keeping their cars longer than planned.

Most (83%) consumers still buy at a physical store, with 82% of groceries bought this way, but online adoption buying is growing at different rates. Only 6% of groceries are bought online, but 32% of restaurant and take-out food are now bought online.

Buying online for an in-store pick-up is also becoming more popular because it is faster than shopping in store and consumers do not have to wait for delivery.

Safety concerns as well as the convenience of buying online are boosting e-commerce channels because it saves time and allows people to avoid shopping centres. Half of consumers also say they are prepared to pay for the convenience.

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