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There is a quiet class struggle happening in South Africa: the struggle of the middle class to survive the toughest times since the ’30s Depression. This is no longer the country – if it ever was – of “braaivleis, sunny skies and Chevrolet” as the old advert described it.
Millions of people have lost their jobs over the past few years – thanks to the general downward spiral of the economy and to the devastation wrought by Covid and lockdown restrictions. We are now in the unenviable position of having one of the highest unemployment rates in the world.
And it just seems to be getting worse in 2021. Covid and the restrictions are still with us and even the recent easing of the alert levels has still not been enough to see those businesses which closed reopening. Electricity prices are shooting skywards at a rate far in excess of the rate of inflation as Eskom battles to recover from the looting of the state capture years.
Fuel prices are also at record highs.
How the fuel price increase affects you
These cost pressures are finding their way straight to the consumer and people are hurting. Some have had to cut back on luxuries and concentrate more on basic items, making those items last longer.
Other families are turning to “side hustles” by selling items in the informal sector or taking extra jobs, if they can find them, to supplement their income.
Fuel price: Consumers to feel the pinch at the pumps in August
While the government has vowed to help the poorest of the poor by extending the R350-a-month Covid grant, as well as looking seriously at a basic income grant (or dole) payment, the middle class are largely being forgotten, regarded as being fortunate because they have jobs and some of the basic necessities of life.
But the middle class cannot be neglected. They are the engine which drives our economy.