SA’s level 4 economic restrictions are narrow and murky. They mostly limit employment levels according to industry and product, despite paying lip service to preserving jobs. A more constructive approach would instead ask how producers and authorities can transform work organisation and public transport to minimise the risk of contagion. While this would be disruptive and require greater capacity for implementation and enforcement, it would secure a faster recovery from the Covid-19 depression.

The lockdown has brought scary losses of jobs and income. As of late April, the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) had received applications for almost 2-million workers — a quarter of permanent formal employees. In the 2008/2009 global financial crisis, SA lost just half as many jobs. And UIF applications don’t reflect the full scope of job losses. Many formal employers have not applied. Moreover, about a third of workers outside essential services don’t belong to the UIF because they ...

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