Four years after COVID, South Africa is standing at a crossroads of recovery and adaptation, with its people shaping new narratives of resilience. 

This blog dives into the heart of these transformations, offering a data-backed exploration of how the pandemic has recalibrated lifestyles, employment, and health practices across the nation. Through analysing recent poll data from YourView and labour market tendencies, we’ll unfold the key trends that are guiding consumer behaviours and business strategies today. 

Our YourView poll’s respondents were predominantly within the working age, with 40.9% falling into the 25-34 age bracket, and a significant representation across other age groups, with 27.6% aged 35-44, 17.2% aged 18-24, and 11.7% aged 45-54. The majority were female, making up 58.3% of participants, compared to 41.7% male, offering a varied demographic snapshot of COVID-19’s impacts.

The Impact of COVID-19 on South African Lives

Four years have passed since COVID-19 swept across the globe, with South Africans having to navigate personal and professional disruptions of significant magnitude. Based on our recent poll, we’re able to uncover key insights into how different groups within the nation have been adjusting to a reality shaped by the pandemic’s legacy.

Here’s a brief breakdown of the poll results concerning the health impact of COVID-19 on South Africans:

  • Remained the same (30.0%): A significant segment of the population has not perceived a change in their health status, suggesting a measure of stability amidst the chaos.
  • Significantly improved (24.1%): A notable proportion of participants report marked improvements in their health, which might correlate with increased health awareness and lifestyle adjustments prompted by the pandemic.
  • Slightly improved (21.6%): Some individuals indicate a moderate enhancement in their well-being, pointing toward gradual health and lifestyle benefits arising post-pandemic.
  • Slightly declined (16.9%): A segment of respondents acknowledges a minor decline in health, potentially reflecting the direct and indirect stresses related to the pandemic.
  • Significantly declined (7.5%): A smaller group reports substantial health deteriorations, which may relate to the consequences of COVID-19 or its impact on access to healthcare for non-COVID conditions.

Delving into individual experiences arising from the pandemic:

  • Healthcare workers faced an intense period of pressure, skill growth, but also severe stress and mental health challenges.
  • Small business owners encountered fluctuating fortunes, with some harnessing innovative approaches for survival, while others were less fortunate, falling victim to economic hardship.
  • Recent graduates or school leavers were launched into a drastically altered job market, having to demonstrate flexibility and creativity to forge new career paths against a backdrop of limited opportunities.

These insights illustrate the varied threads of change and adaptation among South Africans after COVID, shedding light on a society striving to find balance and normalcy after a significant global event.

Also read: The Struggles Faced By Young Adults In South Africa

Economic Repercussions and Recovery

The COVID-19 pandemic has had substantial economic consequences in South Africa, resulting in significant job losses and causing a marked contraction in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). 

An article from The Conversation explores South Africa’s labour market recovery post-COVID-19, notably highlighting the challenges faced by unskilled workers and those with less formal education. Key insights include:

  1. Post-Pandemic Employment Status: Post-lockdown, job creation increased; however, the growth primarily catered to semi-skilled and skilled labour, leaving behind unskilled labourers and individuals without grade 12 level education. This pattern mirrors systemic trends seen over the last 30 years.
  2. Unskilled Labor and Lower Education: Workers with these characteristics suffered more job losses during the pandemic and continue to face uphill battles when seeking employment opportunities after the lockdowns.
  3. Demographic Disparities: Employment increased mostly for highly educated and skilled female African workers aged 45-54 within specific urban areas and industries.

Unfortunately, these labour market trends laid bare by the pandemic reflect structural issues that have persisted for decades, with unemployment remaining high despite overall economic growth.

To address these concerns, both government and private sector initiatives have been deployed to stimulate the economy and create new job opportunities. However, the challenge of inclusively and sustainably rebuilding the workforce is not an easy one to overcome, especially given COVID’s impact on the unskilled or less-educated labour force. These economic realities underscore the importance of adaptability, resilience, and policy that supports those most affected by the pandemic’s disruptions. 

Mental Health and Societal Changes

Along with the health issues caused by COVID-19, a hidden crisis also evolved – the mental health impact. The virus didn’t just affect people’s physical health; it also contributed to changes in their mental well-being, social interactions, and overall approach to life.

Our poll delves into these areas, offering some intriguing insights on how COVID-19 affected South Africans:

Social Interactions

  • Slightly declined: 24.2%
  • Slightly improved: 23.6%
  • Remained the same: 23.5%
  • Significantly improved: 20.3%
  • Significantly declined: 8.4%

Work-Life Balance

  • Remained the same: 26.1%
  • Slightly improved: 25.8%
  • Significantly improved: 21.5%
  • Slightly declined: 16.8%
  • Significantly declined: 9.8%

Overall Perspective on Life

  • Slightly improved: 28.6%
  • Significantly improved: 25.1%
  • Remained the same: 19.2%
  • Slightly declined: 18.9%
  • Significantly declined: 8.2%

These statistics underscore a collective societal shift, with noticeable changes in both professional and personal life spheres.

The pandemic started more discussions around mental health, increasing awareness and gradually destigmatising mental health issues. Many organisations have started focusing on their employees’ mental health, reflecting a needed change in how society views this topic.

The evolution of work culture is another significant outcome of the pandemic. The rise of remote work transformed conventional workplaces, creating a new model which brought both opportunities and challenges. The changed dynamics allowed some individuals to improve their work-life balance while it presented hurdles for others.

Lastly, the pandemic’s effects on community interactions and relationships are noteworthy. While some people reported improved social interactions, a significant portion saw their social engagements decline. People have had to find new ways to connect in a world that’s physically distancing, hence these mixed responses.

In essence, the fallout from COVID-19, as reflected in these poll outcomes, shows a transformative period for societal norms, mental health attitudes, and work structures.

Also read: How South Africa’s Energy Consumption has Changed with Remote Work

Looking Forward

The impact of COVID-19 continues to shape our daily lives and future expectations, leading us to a cautiously hopeful outlook. We’ve adapted to changes in health safety, socialising, and work, showing our capacity for flexibility and resilience.

Despite the challenges, the pandemic has sparked innovations and positive shifts. We’ve seen a jump in technology use, new ways of providing healthcare like telemedicine, and inventive methods for keeping social connections alive.

South Africans, in particular, have shown great resilience and unity. Inspired by the principle of Ubuntu – “I am because we are” – there’s been a nationwide effort to support one another and tackle the pandemic collectively.

The spirit of South Africans reveals adaptability in business, education, and community strength. These experiences promise a stronger, more connected future as we move beyond the pandemic.


YourView Consumer Panel: YourView is maintained and administered by KLA, which provides research services and insights to numerous South African companies, including blue chip clients in the financial services, telecommunications and FMCG industries.

Panel size: ~100 000-110 000

Data Collection:   2024/03/18 – 2024/03/19

Population: No quotas applied with a natural fall-out across demographics.

Question: Please indicate the extent to which the COVID-19 pandemic has effected your life within the last four year. n – 885