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Type Journal Article - Scientific African
Title Moving during times of crisis: Migration, living arrangements and COVID-19 in South Africa
Volume 13
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2021
Page numbers e00926
We explore flexibility in living arrangements during times of crisis by investigating adult mobility at various stages of the COVID-19 related initial lockdown in South Africa. Living arrangements are not static, and they may change considerably in response to economic and health shocks. The South African context is particularly interesting to investigate because studies suggest that many households remain “stretched” between rural and urban nodes, and kin networks have been identified as an important source of support during times of hardship. We use descriptive methods to analyze mobility in anticipation of the “hard” (level 5) lockdown, when almost all economic and on-site teaching activity was suspended, and the subsequent easing to lockdown level 4. The data come from the largest South African non-medical rapid mobile survey conducted during COVID-19, which employed telephone interviews to survey a representative sample of 7074 adults drawn using a stratified sampling design. We find that during the first few months of the COVID-19 lockdown in 2020, approximately 16 percent of adults in South Africa had moved into a different household. Most adults (82%) only moved once; those who moved twice were the most likely to have employment to return to, suggesting that these movers include circular labour migrants. The study highlights the “double-rootedness” of adults, who remain attached to another “family” home, and it points to the importance of living arrangements as a livelihood strategy when employment is lost.

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