The Covid-19 pandemic came at a time where the country continued to battle “a legacy of exclusion and dispossession”, President Cyril Ramaphosa said in his 2021 State of the Nation (Sona) address on Thursday evening.
The country’s gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 13.5% in the third quarter of 2020.
However, unemployment already rife in South Africa before the pandemic, has been exacerbated by the virus.
In the third quarter of 2020, South Africa’s economy was 6% smaller than it was in the last quarter of 2019.
Ramaphosa said the sharp decline in economic growth and an increase in unemployment has seen poverty rising and inequality deepening.
In the third quarter of 2020, 1.7 million fewer people were employed than in the first quarter. Unemployment is currently at a “staggering” 30.8%.
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However, Ramaphosa said a recovery in employment can be expected.
In the meantime, relief measures worth R500 billion, or 10% of the country’s GDP, provided economic support to 18 million people in struggling households.
More than five million people were able to remain above the poverty line due to this, Ramaphosa reported.
And in the Unemployment Insurance Fund’s (UIF) Temporary Employee/Employer Relief Scheme (Ters) has paid out more than R57 billion in wage support to at least 4.5 million workers.
Small and medium-sized businesses has received more than R1.3 billion, and saw over R70 billion in tax relief.
In addition, Ramaphosa said R18.9 billion in loans have been approved for 13,000 businesses through government’s loan guarantee scheme.