Stats SA poll reveals pain felt by businesses under lockdown

Businesses are taking a heavy knock during the lockdown. Stock photo.
Businesses are taking a heavy knock during the lockdown. Stock photo.
Image: 123RF/Thomas Gowanlock

Nine out of 10 businesses polled have recorded a reduced turnover since the coronavirus pandemic hit SA, Stats SA's Covid-19 business impact survey has revealed.

Stats SA conducted the survey between April 13 and 21, asking companies how the pandemic was affecting their operations.

“The survey showed that nine in 10 (90%) responding businesses’ turnover was lower than their normal expected range, up from 85% in the first survey,” Stats SA said in a statement.

Just over one-third (36%) of firms indicated that they were laying off staff in the short term as a measure to cope.

“This is higher than the 20% reported in the first survey. One in four firms (25%) indicated that they were decreasing working hours, down from 28% in the first survey.”

The survey also revealed that almost one in 10 (9%) businesses indicated having permanently ceased operations.

The industries with the highest percentage of firms permanently closing their doors include construction (14%), community, social and personal services (12%); and agriculture, hunting, forestry and fishing (12%).

“When asked if they would operate during the level 4 lockdown, 56% of responding businesses indicated that they would continue to do business,” said Stats SA.

Of the businesses surveyed, 30% indicated they could survive less than a month without any turnover, while more than half said they could survive between one and three months.

Only 7% could survive for longer than three months, the survey showed.

The first impact survey covered the period March 30 to April 13 2020, and the results were published on April 21.

The number of responses for the second round was larger, covering 2,182 businesses compared with the first survey’s tally of 707 businesses. The scope for the second survey was also expanded to include the agriculture and hunting sectors.

Meanwhile, the National Small Business Chamber (NSBC) said the government's announcement of a move from level 4 to level 3 of the lockdown was too little, too late for small businesses.

“You cannot improve the health and wellbeing of a nation by making your country poorer, this has never been achieved by any country. The threat to small businesses and the livelihoods because of job losses in this sector and increased poverty is far greater than the threat to lives as result of anything else,” said Mike Anderson, NSBC founder and CEO.

The NSBC said a continued lockdown was not in the best interests of the small business sector or the economy. Small businesses needed more direction and assurance so that they could plan and prepare, the chamber said.

“The recently launched Covid -19 small business relief and recovery centre, powered by the NSBC is to help small businesses by doing whatever we can to take their pain away during this crisis and then to bring them back way after the pandemic has subsided,” Anderson said.

“This could be years,” he said. “Small businesses are vital economic engines. A flourishing small business sector is the future of job creation. We have to ensure that we bridge businesses through these trying times. Our goal is to make sure businesses stay in business and that we keep workers employed,” he added.

“Our plea to the mercurial job creators within the small business sector throughout the nation is to hang in there. You are resilient and courageous and you must believe that you will triumph and come out stronger.”

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