Nearly 3-million South Africans rely on the informal sector for their daily bread. Until now, the general consensus has been that this is a good thing: the informal sector represents the self-starters — those self-reliant and enterprising members of society SA so desperately needs. But the coronavirus has shown us that there has been a tremendous and cruel gap in our thinking about employment. And, in some ways, the war rhetoric that has come to dominate this time of crisis provides a good basis for understanding why.

UN secretary-general António Guterres has been one of many leaders to compare the crisis unleashed by the Covid-19 pandemic to a war, arguing that the disease "represents a threat to everybody in the world and ... an economic impact that will bring a recession that probably has no parallel in the recent past".

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