COVID-19: Four in ten businesses feel that they cannot continue to operate

A rapid response survey, conducted by Stats SA during the lockdown, asked businesses how the current crisis is affecting their operations in the two-week period from 30 March to 13 April 2020. This is what they told us.

A total of 707 businesses in the formal sector responded to the survey, outlining the pandemic’s impact on turnover, trading, workforce, imports and exports, purchases, prices, and business survival.

The complete report is available here for download, but the following are a few of the key results:

  • Four in ten businesses feel that they cannot continue to operate: When asked about financial resources, 42,2% of respondents indicated that they are not confident that they have the financial resources to continue operating through the COVID-19 outbreak. When asked how long business can continue without turnover, 54,0% of respondents indicated that they can survive without turnover between one to three months.
  • Almost half of responding businesses have temporarily closed their doors: The industries reporting the highest percentages of temporary closure or paused trading activity were construction, manufacturing, trade and mining.




  • Half of the respondents expect that their workforce size would stay the same: Asked how their workforce size might change over the two weeks following the reference period, 50,4% of respondents expected no change, while 36,8% expected their workforce size to decline. Businesses indicated that they have implemented a range of measures to cope with the impact of the pandemic on their workforce, including decreasing working hours (28,3% of respondents) and laying off staff in the short term (19,6% of respondents). Only about one in four businesses indicated that they had not taken any measures yet.
  • Five in six businesses have experienced a drop in turnover: Asked whether turnover was within its normal range in the period 30 March–13 April 2020, 85,4% of respondents surveyed reported turnover below the normal range. Respondents in the construction, real estate and other business services, and transport industries were the most affected by lower than expected turnover.
  • Almost two-thirds of businesses feel that this will be worse than the 2008/09 recession: Many businesses (65,0%) anticipate that the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic will substantially be worse than the 2008/09 global financial crisis. Only 4,3% of respondents indicated that the impact will or could be the same.

Readers should keep the following in mind when interpreting the results from this survey: micro businesses (with an annual turnover below R2 million) were not included, answers to the survey questions reflect the perceptions of respondents, and the findings are based on limited responses.

The strength of the data is that it provides a quick snapshot and valuable economic insight – in close to real time – into the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on South African businesses.

If you missed the link in the article above, the complete report is available here.

Similar articles are available on the Stats SA website and can be accessed here.

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