Almost 80% of South Africans seek expensive unsecured loans to help them meet their monthly financial obligations, a survey by fintech platform PayCurve shows.

Many people are forced to work two jobs, if they are able to find any, and they take loans to buy food, cover emergency expenses, such as vehicle repairs, and pay for school-related fees, according to the survey that was completed by 509 South Africans aged 16-66.

The findings highlight South Africans’ deteriorating finances in an economy that was already in a recession, with a third of the labour force unemployed, before the first Covid-19 case was confirmed. Central bank data show household debt stood at 73.7% of disposable income in the first quarter and the cost of servicing these obligations consumed 9.3% of households’ income.

These are some of the other findings by PayCurve, which helps companies provide staff with early access to a portion of their salaries:

  • 11% of respondents spent more than half their monthly income paying off short-term debt and 43% pay more than a fifth of their salaries towards such loans
  • 84% of respondents who rely on short-term debt wanted the opportunity to access a portion of their income ahead of payday

DebtBusters, a company that helps consumers restructure their loans, paints an even bleaker picture.

It found that the 1.6-million South Africans who took advantage of payment holidays offered by financial institutions during the  coronavirus lockdown from April to June will pay an additional R20.7bn in debt.

“In a country as overindebted as SA, especially at a time when the economy is contracting, this is enough to push people who were just about making ends meet into a situation where their debt-to-income ratio is unsustainable,” DebtBusters COO Benay Sager said.



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