Aims and Objectives of the Research Covid-19 on South Africa’s low-income communities

The proposed research seeks to investigate an untapped research setting with regard to Covid-19 effects and social relief funds. In this context, the research will aim at examining the multi-dimensional effects of Covid-19 on South Africa’s low-income communities, with specific regard to Soweto. The examination will be undertaken to assess the role and effectiveness of social relief funds in tackling Covid-19 effects on the low-income communities of South Africa, specifically Soweto.

  • To examine the multi-dimensional effects of Covid-19 on South Africa’s low-income communities
  • To explore the challenges facing by South Africa’s low-income communities in tackling Covid-19
  • To assess the role of South Africa’s government and social relief funds in tackling Covid-19 effects on low-income communities’ people
  • To identify the major issues evident in the support by government and social relief funds to the low-income communities of South Africa, specifically Soweto
  • To recommend strategies for strengthening the support of government and social relief funds to low-income communities during Covid-19, with specific reference to Soweto

RQ 1: What are the key challenges facing by South Africa’s low-income communities in tackling Covid-19?

RQ 2: Whether social relief is a solution or problem for Soweto, a low-income country of South Africa?

RQ 3: In what ways, the support of government and social relief funds to low-income communities, with specific reference to Soweto can be strengthened during Covid-19?

Rationale for the Study

The prevailing novel coronavirus pandemic has severely affected the global health system, and South Africa has also not remained untouched with it. The effect of coronavirus is rising phenomenally in the African countries, despite the proactive implementation of the norms of lockdown rules and social distancing. In order to control the spread of coronavirus, various restrictive measures, such as lockdown, closure of schools and universities, offices, isolation and quarantine have been imposed that resulted to inevitably affect the economic and healthcare activities, and policymakers had to make use of monetary policies, fiscal policies and government funds (Hatefi et al., 2020). Despite implementing various restrictive measures, the control over the spread and its effect on economy and healthcare domain cannot be overcome.

In this, the long history and significant experiences of South Africa for dealing with infectious disease and pandemic situations, such as Malaria, HIV and Ebola have made the South African countries more vulnerable, and deeply facing the issue of limited physical, financial and medical resources. There is a major problem of the weak healthcare management system and public health care. The problem is engraved more deeply in the low-income countries of Africa, wherein, the healthcare facility lacking more deeply (Hatefiet al., 2020; Khambule, 2020). This has raised intensely the requirement of scaling-up investment in intensive care units and overall healthcare systems to combat the coronavirus spread in the countries. Currently, in Africa, 65% of the expenses on healthcare are evident to be made out of pocket (Ozili, 2020). Social relief funds are also introduced by the government in response to Covid-19, but its transparent use and allocation is found not at a success point due to corruption.

Background of the Problem

In the research, Soweto is selected as the research setting, which is a low-income township in the metropolitan municipality of the City of Johannesburg. Today, millions of people are living in the township, and the majority of them are black South Africans, representing distinct ethnic identities, such as Xhosa, Sotho and Zulu. Economic diversity also prevails in the town, depicting the presence of middle-class neighbourhoods, informal settlements and working-class communities (Kim, Nyengerai and Mendenhall, 2020). The affliction of infectious diseases is reported as the major issue among residents, and in this, Covid-19 has made the situation more vulnerable. It has not only affected the human health, rather, resulted in creating the issues of losing jobs, enhancing inequalities between rich and poor, insufficiency of public funds and led to deteriorating the healthcare infrastructure of the country significantly. Centring on the range of issues facing by the town and the country, the proposed research focuses on critically analysing the impacts of Covid-19 on South Africa’s low-income communities, and assesses the impacts of social relief funds in Soweto and low-income countries of South Africa in general.

Preliminary Literature Review

MacFeely, Me and Fu (202) have explained that the impact of Covid-19 has resonated through every corned across the world; destroying livelihoods, taking jobs and altering everything concerning how people communicate with others and the world. Urban areas that constitute approximately 90 per cent of Covid-19 cases are experiencing the brunt of this pandemic. Meanwhile, initiatives are evident in different countries for eliminating extreme poverty with global poverty to increase drastically for the first time after the 1998 Asian Financial Crisis. It is expected that around 40 to 60 million people will be struggling with extreme poverty by the end of 2020, living on less than $1.90 per day as an outcome of the coronavirus pandemic (MacFeely, Me and Fu, 2020). In particular, as per the report published by ILO (2020), the value added by industrial sector in China decreased by nearly 13.5 per cent during the initial months of 2020 which in turn threatened millions of jobs (ILO, 2020). On the other side, in India, approximately 80 per cent of jobs are impacted in urban economy and the total GDP with the industrial domain particularly drastically declined by 54 percent (The Economic Times, 2020).

In the similar context, Boonget al. (2020) identified that currently, COVID-19 has spread to almost every region worldwide and even after the closing of borders by many low and middle-income countries for preventing travel-related dissemination, it is only a subject of time before community spread becomes the trend.  Low and middle-income regions commonly have large populations sustaining in overcrowded conditions wherein it is not possible to abide by the social distancing norm issued for controlling the pandemic. Thus, people living in such regions generally fail in following the general public health advice for reducing the spread of infection and virus. Due to such critical aspects, the President of the Republic of South Africa named Covid-19 as a national disaster (Boonget al., 2020).

A news report published by The Conversation (2020) mentioned that the Covid-19 pandemic has considerably damaged the lives of people and shattered the economy in South Africa. But the effect of the efforts; used for combating the pandemic including lockdowns, has not been equitable. The pandemic has expanded the income inequalities, which characterise the nation’s economy. It is found that vulnerable populations like low-income earners in the precarious and informal domain have been significantly impacted by job losses and the potential income loss.  Furthermore, while Covid-19 has influenced every facet of human’s lives, it is predominantly a health problem. Massive loss of income and job is likely to reduce the ability to access nutritious diet and healthcare facilities, thus negatively impacting the health of the community at large (The Conversation, 2020). About 3 million of people in South Africa have lost their jobs during the nationwide lockdown and furthermore 1.5 million workers have lost their income sources as the outcome of the lockdown (Smit, 2020). For dealing with the critical implications of Covid-19, social relief of distress (SRD) grant has been introduced by the government of South Africa and under this grant R350 per month which will be paid from May till October (Government of South Africa, 2020).

On 27th March, South Africa imposed stringent lockdown whereby the government gained global recognition for taking harsh steps to flatten the curve and control Covid-19 infections. On the basis of data obtained via a wider national survey, reveals that large groups of households are witnessing tremendous hardship as an outcome of the lockdown. It is examined that out of every five adults, every two between May and June notified that their household had lost its important source of income from the since the start of lockdown. This had devastating implications for household hunger and food security, indicating the scenario’s seriousness (The Conversation, 2020a).

On 23rd April Cyril Ramaphosa, South African President announced a couple of safety net interventions for protecting the society against the human, as well as economic implications of the lockdown (The Conversation, 2020b). The government utilised three channels for extending social protection to people including grants; localised social relief initiatives and the Covid-19 Temporary Employer-Employee Relief Scheme. NGOs, community-based organisation and faith-based entities also showcased incredible agility in approaching their constituencies. Still, the response was neither fair nor wider for overcoming the adverse implications of incomes losses on the lives of people, particularly ones belonging to low-income communities. Subsequently, gaps also emerged in the government responses and administrative challenges in escalating social insurance and assistance delayed the relief provision; to certain households (The Conversation, 2020a). Therefore, it is examined that the government’s effort in combating Covid-19 implications are falling short in safeguarding lives of individuals pertaining to low-income groups of the country depicting the need for some alterations in the allocation of social-relief funds.

Research Problem and Significance of the Problem

The proposed study is based on the most widely discussed and explored research problem in contemporary times; Covid-19 so research findings and data obtained in this study would be an informative source in assisting future studies. Investigation of the chosen research problem would produce significant results in the academic and professional practice domain as the research will examine the multi-dimensional effects of Covid-19 low-income communities of South Africa with main focus on Soweto. It is found from the preliminary literature review that impact of Covid-19 is not only limited to human health, but it has multi-fold effects on such as on employment. Inequalities amid high-income and low-income communities aggravated amid Covid-19 along with loss of jobs, so in order to tackle the issue, the government introduced social relief funds (Hatefi et al., 2020). In this regard, the proposed work would help in determining the impact of Covid-19 on low-income communities and the role and efficacy of social-relief funds in dealing with the prevalent issues in Soweto.

Perceptions and experience of social workers and youth will be recorded in this study regarding the allocation of government social funds which will help in recognising inefficacies in current policies and practices and determining the areas of improvement. As it is a current topic and based on a real-life case, the study would produce novice insights wherein research outcomes can guide the formulation of policies and practices in future to ensure effective fund allocation and tacking of the adverse impacts of Covid-19. Overall, the proposed work will help in gathering pertinent specific data about the impact of the support given by the government and social relief funds to the low-income communities of South Africa in dealing with Covid-19.

Relevant definitions, assumptions and limitations

Low-income communities are characterised by limited resources, poverty, poor mental health results, insufficient schooling and high poverty (Chowdhury et al., 2020). Social relief fund refers to the temporary provision of funds and assistance given to the individuals in need when are struggling to meet their personal needs and the most basic needs of their families (Hatefi et al., 2020). In this study, the researcher intends to find out the impacts of Covid-19 on South Africa’s low-income communities and the impacts of social relief funds wherein primary data will be gathered directly from social workers of Soweto’s NGOs. Thus, it is assumed that they are in close contact with the youth and low-income families of Soweto and possess sufficient information about issues faced by them amid coronavirus pandemic.

The proposed work would be carried out by focusing on qualitative methods, so no correlation can be found between research variables relating to the impact of Covid-19 on employment, financial aspects and health aspects. The research would lack quantitative data and statistical facts. In addition, the issue of bias is also associated with the use of qualitative methods (Walliman, 2017). Additionally, the study will produce results in the context of Soweto’s low-income communities, so conclusions cannot be generalised.

Possible Conclusion and Recommendations

It is evident from the preliminary literature review that the government of South Africa has embraced social and economic relief measures for correcting the devastating impacts of the novel coronavirus pandemic.  The hard lockdown enforced by the government on 27th March to flatten the curve and exercise control over infections amid Covid-19 gained appreciation globally. The South African government has extended social protection through three dominant channels. Moreover, numerous NGOs, faith and community-based organisations are also working in line to secure livelihoods of people. However, still, massive groups of low-income households are facing tremendous hardship which is a significant concern. In this relation, it is observed that although the government relief funds are known to play their role; however, the considerable contribution of such funds is not apparent.

Low-income communities even fail to comply with social distancing norms due to overcrowding in their locations. In order to adequately deal with the pandemic, it is essential to look into basic issues concerning lack of water, lack of access to requisite health facilities and job crisis via appropriate regulation of social-relief funds, and policies in Soweto. All these impacts of Covid-19 and social relief funds will be explored in detail in the intended research to devise suitable corrective measures. For addressing such contingencies with wide impacts in future, government’s readiness must be stressed, and support must be extended to small and medium businesses and older people to assure economic and social stability.

Research Design/Methodology

In this study, data will be procured with the help of primary tools and secondary research tools. Three research methods are available to the researcher namely, mixed-method, qualitative method and quantitative method wherein qualitative method emphasis on understanding the research problem in the light of views, experiences and subjective information concerning target population. On the other hand, quantitative methods depend on objective information and logical data (Ghauri, Grønhaug and Strange, 2020).  Further, the mixed method uses both qualitative and quantitative methods to explore the research problem in a comprehensive manner (Bell, Bryman and Harley, 2018). Moreover, in this study, the qualitative method would be used for data collection wherein primary data will be procured with the help of interview method. Other than this, secondary data will be gathered by reviewing government reports specific to South Africa, credible news articles and latest academic sources such as scholarly papers based on Covid-19’s impact.

The interview will be conducted with three social workers of NGOs working in Soweto. It is not possible to conduct a face to face interview amid Covid-19 pandemic, so Skype interview or online interview will be organised with social workers that are directly involved in offering help to low income-communities. The interview method is chosen as it would allow the researcher to collect ample data and detailed perceptions of participants and determine challenges faced by low-income communities due to Covid-19 and impact of social-relief funds (Walliman, 2017). Alternatively, the use of focus group, observation and survey method would be rejected as the survey is applied in quantitative studies and focus group requires a large sample and more resources than an interview (Bell, Bryman and Harley, 2018). The participants will be contacted through their NGOs, and purposive sampling would be used for the selection of participants from the target population.

Methods and Technique: Justification of the Chosen Method and Technique:

Qualitative methods help in extracting in-depth data and analysing the research problem in detail, so it will be preferred over quantitative or mixed-method (Walliman, 2017). Further, the exploratory design and interpretivism philosophy would be applied in the research as these research elements support the qualitative investigation and provide sufficient flexibility to the researcher (Hennink, Hutter and Bailey, 2020). Use of primary tools and exploratory design is considered appropriate as limited data is available in published sources regarding Covid-19’s impact on low-income communities. The exploratory design will be integrated, and the descriptive design will be rejected as the descriptive design is suitable for quantitative studies and the exploratory design is appropriate for studies on which scarce data is available in existing sources (Hennink, Hutter and Bailey, 2020).

Statistical analysis technique and thematic analysis technique are two different data analysis techniques in which thematic analysis technique is used for assessing qualitative information and statistical analysis is utilised in quantitative studies (Ghauri, Grønhaug and Strange, 2020). Hence, the thematic analysis technique would be used for examining and presenting interview data gathered from social workers in South Africa’s Soweto.

Ethics Statement

In the research, strict compliance with the ethical norms will be made throughout the research process, which is pivotal for a researcher to ensure the credibility, reliability and validity of the research findings. In this context, while interviewing the social workers, it will be strictly ensured that the researcher must keep the privacy and anonymity of the participants at the foremost level. For this, no intrusion to their personal lives, feelings and emotions will be made, along with asking no questions revealing their identity or contact information (Ryen, 2016). No act will be done by the researcher that harm the participants in any term, be it physical, emotional or mental level. All the data gathered through them will be kept confidential in a data-protected file. Apart from this, no misrepresentation of facts and data, harm to data and non-adherence to plagiarism will be made in the research, with regard to using secondary data (Gray, 2019).

Dissemination of Research

In order to disseminate the research, a planned process will be used, integrating the interest of the audiences and research setting. For disseminating the research findings, the research will be published via research paper, wherein the whole research data will be made available to the future researcher, who can gain crucial insights from it. Along with this, the data will be presented to a targeted audience via presentation; also, that will highlight the key findings of the research. The research will be made available to the future researcher via the university database also, as the researcher will make it available there also (Tripathyet al., 2017).