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Quality of Life Survey 6 (2020/21)

Launch of the results from our Quality of Life Survey 6 (2020/21)

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Photo by Simon Wolfson

Launch outputs

Quality of Life Survey 6 (2020/21): Overview report (This report includes dedicated sections on Covid-19 impact; Transport; Poverty, inequality and social mobility; Hunger and food security; Violence and safety; Health; Community and social attitudes; Migration and moving home; Basic services; Environment and extreme events; Government performance and satisfaction; and Quality of life.)

Effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Gauteng City-Region: Findings from the GCRO's Quality of Life Survey 6 (2020/21)

The Quality of Life Index 2020/21 - interactive visualisation

Recording of the event on YouTube

Reports to metropolitan municipalities

Quality of Life Survey 6 (2020/21) Municipal Report: City of Ekurhuleni.

Quality of Life Survey 6 (2020/21) Municipal Report: City of Johannesburg.

Quality of Life Survey 6 (2020/21) Municipal Report: City of Tshwane.

Opinion pieces

Gauteng City-Region Observatory (2021) Covid fallout: Vulnerability and signs of recovery in Gauteng. Daily Maverick. 9 September 2021.

Mkhize, SP., Parker, A., de Kadt, J. (2021) Gauteng health and wellbeing survey highlights the plight of women and black Africans. Daily Maverick. 19 September 2021.

Parker, A. (2021). ‘Eighteen months after the start of the Covid-19 pandemic women are faring worse than men, Quality of Life survey shows’, Daily Maverick, 21 September 2021.

Hatcher, A., de Kadt, J., Mkhize, SP., Parker, A. (2021) Fixing data blind spots is the key to solving violence against women and children. Daily Maverick. 5 October 2021.

Naidoo, Y., de Kadt, J., Parker, A. (2021) Quality of life declines in Gauteng, deepening inequality. Daily Maverick. 13 October 2021.

Launch event and headline findings

The Quality of Life Survey 6 (2020/21) was launched on 9 September 2021 with an online event and a live stream to YouTube attended by the public, the media, researchers and government officials in South Africa and abroad. Professor Lynn Morris, Deputy Chairperson of the GCRO Board, and University of the Witwatersrand Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research & Innovation, welcomed our online guests and thanked all the partners, service providers, fieldworkers and respondents for their efforts in making the sixth iteration of the survey a success during a particularly challenging period. Dr Julia de Kadt, GCRO senior researcher and lead of the Quality of Life Survey project, and Mr Graeme Gotz, GCRO’s Director of Research Strategy presented headline findings from the survey data.

The survey findings reveal just how much socio-economic fallout the COVID-19 pandemic has had for Gauteng province. A full 11% of all adults in Gauteng lost a job since March 2020, while 4% were forced to permanently close a business. Of those who lost a job or closed a business, only 44% subsequently found new employment. There are, however, also indications of positive responses from both government, and society as a whole. Almost a quarter of households in Gauteng included an adult who received the COVID-19 Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grant, while 13% received food support, and levels of community trust have risen dramatically.

The overall impact of all these changes (positive and negative) is shown by our Quality of Life index, which provides a measure of multi-dimensional well-being, drawing on 33 variables, grouped into seven dimensions. The QoL Index score for 2020/21 is notably lower than in 2017/18, falling from 64 to 61. This is a return to 2013/14 levels and reverses the gradual upward trend in Index scores over time.

The launch presentation was responded to by a panel of guest speakers chaired by GCRO’s new Executive Director, Mr Rashid Seedat. The panel included Dr Nic Spaull, Co-principal Investigator of the NIDS-CRAM survey and Senior Researcher, Economics Department, Stellenbosch University; Cllr Aletta Mashigo, SALGA Gauteng Chairperson and Councillor, City of Ekurhuleni; Mr Ray Hartley, Deputy Director, Brenthurst Foundation; Dr Ayodele Odusola, SA Resident Representative UNDP; and an overarching response from Mr Mduduzi Mbada on behalf of the Honourable Premier of Gauteng, Mr David Makhura. A recording of the event is available on our YouTube channel.

GCRO has published preliminary analysis of the data in two reports: Quality of Life Survey 6 (2020/21): Overview report and Effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Gauteng city-region, and an interactive visualisation: The Quality of Life Index 2020/21. The dataset will be freely available under the CC BY 4.0 license from the DataFirst service from October 2021. Additional in-depth analysis and outputs will be published over the coming months.

Technical Documentation

QoL 6 (2020/21) Questionnaire

Hamann, C. & de Kadt, J. (2021). Quality of Life Survey 6 (2020/21): Sample design. Johannesburg: Gauteng City-Region Observatory.

GeoSpace International (2021). Quality of Life Survey 6 (2020/21): Fieldwork Report. Johannesburg: Gauteng City-Region Observatory.

Neethling, A. (2021). Quality of Life Survey 6 (2020/21): Weighting Report. Johannesburg: Gauteng City-Region Observatory.

Naidoo, Y., & de Kadt, J. (2021). Quality of Life Survey 6 (2020/21): Quality of Life Index methodology. Johannesburg: Gauteng City-Region Observatory (GCRO).


The dataset is freely available under the CC BY 4.0 license from the DataFirst service. For more information please email

Results for variables can also be generated on the GCRO Quality of Life Viewer.


A media pack with press release and images is available to journalists.

Media inquiries and requests for interviews with GCRO researchers should be directed to Deborah Minors:

Publications using or citing QoL 6 (2020/21) data

GCRO outputs

Petersen, C. and Mkhize, S. P. (2023). Intersections of intimate partner violence and food insecurity in Gauteng. Johannesburg: Gauteng City-Region Observatory.

Ndagurwa, P., Naidoo, L. and Miles-Timotheus, S. (2023). The distribution of male-headed and female-headed households in Gauteng. Johannesburg: Gauteng City-Region Observatory.

Culwick Fatti, C. and Khanyile, S. (2023). Justice implications of household access to alternative water and electricity. Johannesburg: Gauteng City-Region Observatory.

Dlamini, L., Maree, G. and Petersen, C. (2022). Water Interruptions in Gauteng. Johannesburg: Gauteng City-Region Observatory.

Mkhize, S. P. and Hamann, C. (2022). Risk of depression and socio-economic status. Johannesburg: Gauteng City-Region Observatory.

Khanyile, S. and Ballard, R. (2022). Language diversity in Gauteng. Johannesburg: Gauteng City-Region Observatory.

Mushongera, D., Nyuke, S. and Khanyile, S. (2022). Electricity interruptions in the GCR. Johannesburg: Gauteng City-Region Observatory.

Götz, G., Maree, G. and Hamann, C. (2022). Economic impacts of COVID-19. Johannesburg: Gauteng City-Region Observatory.

De Kadt, J., Hamann, C., Mkhize, S. P. and Parker, A. (2021). Quality of Life Survey 6 (2020/21): Overview Report. Johannesburg: Gauteng City-Region Observatory.

Maree, G., Fatti, C.C., Götz, G., Hamann, C. and Parker, A. (2021). Effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Gauteng City-Region: Findings from the GCRO's Quality of Life Survey 6 (2020/21). Johannesburg: Gauteng City-Region Observatory.

Academic publications

Modiba, M. and Mdluli, T. N. (2023). The Inclusion of International Migrants in the Informal Economy: From Policy to Practice. In Migrant Traders in South Africa (pp. 237-267). Cham: Springer International Publishing.

Mkhize, S. P. and Maharaj, P. (2023). Heteronormativity in Health Settings: Realities of LGBT Youth’s Access to Healthcare in South Africa. In Young People, Violence and Strategic Interventions in Sub-Saharan Africa (pp. 103-120). Cham: Springer International Publishing.

De Filippo, A., Bellatin, P., Tietz, N., Grant, E., Whitefield, A., Nkopane, P., ... and Hatcher, A. M. (2023). Effects of digital chatbot on gender attitudes and exposure to intimate partner violence among young women in South Africa. PLOS Digital Health, 2(10), pp. 1-18.

Mudau, N. and Mhangara, P. (2023). Assessment of Spatial Patterns of Backyard Shacks Using Landscape Metrics. Drones, 7(9), 561.

Muller, M. (2023). Water and welfare: Free basic water revisited. Development Southern Africa, pp. 1-15.

Cheruiyot, K. (2023). Residential relocation and financial wellbeing: Findings from Golden Gardens housing development in Gauteng, South Africa. Development Southern Africa, pp. 1-20.

Ngwenya, N. (2022). Living on the edge: socio-economic conditions and their perceived impact on the quality of life of youth living in the informal settlement of Zandspruit (Doctoral dissertation, University of Johannesburg).

Mbodla, Z. The effect of the COVID-19 lockdown on emissions from road transportation in Gauteng (Doctoral dissertation, University of Johannesburg).

Khoza, P. M. (2022). Illegal occupation of land in Sekampaneng, Hammanskraal: an exploration of people’s lived experiences and livelihood activities (Doctoral dissertation, University of Johannesburg).

Sojane, R. (2022). Lockdown and the City: The Dawn of New CID Practices (Doctoral dissertation, University of the Witwatersrand).

Maneng, N. S. (2022). Power-sharing in South Africa's municipalities: The case of Ekurhuleni and Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan municipalities from 2016 (Doctoral dissertation, University of the Free State).

Akokuwebe, M. E., Likoko, S., Osuafor, G. N. and Idemudia, E. S. (2023). Determinants of life satisfaction among migrants in South Africa: an analysis of the GCRO’s quality of life survey (2009–2021). BMC Public Health, 23(1), pp. 1-20.

Moeti, T., Mokhele, T., Weir-Smith, G., Dlamini, S. and Tesfamicheal, S. (2023). Factors Affecting Access to Public Healthcare Facilities in the City of Tshwane, South Africa. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 20(4), pp. 1-13.

Hatcher, A. M., Turan, J. M., Stöckl, H., Woollett, N., Garcia-Moreno, C. and Christofides, N. J. (2022). Intimate partner violence and HIV treatment adherence in urban South Africa: mediating role of perinatal common mental disorders. SSM-Mental Health, 2, pp.1-9.

Hall, J. (2022). No time to waste. Reflections on waste management in South Africa during Covid-19. In The Impact of Covid-19 on the Future of Law (pp. 97-118). Johannesburg: University of Johannesburg.

Chatterji, T., Götz, G., Harrison, P., Moore, R. and Roy, S. (2022). Capacity in motion: comparative COVID-19 governance in India and South Africa. Territory, Politics, Governance, pp. 1-21.

Howe, L. B. (2022). The Gender–Poverty–Mobility Nexus and the Post-Pandemic Era in South Africa. Urban Planning, 7(3), pp. 35-48.

Parker, A., Ringel, M. and Tshuwa, L. (2022). Micro-dynamics and Macro-processes. Johannesburg: University of the Witwatersrand.

Taliep, N., Ismail, G., Swart, L. A., Van Niekerk, A. and Seedat, M. (2022). Socioeconomic and psychosocial factors associated with solidarity and prosociality during COVID-19. Community Psychology in Global Perspective, 9(1), pp. 20-44.

Hall, J. (2022). Anel Du Plessis (ed): Environmental law and local government in South Africa. Journal of South African Law, 2022(1), pp.206-209.

Mazenda, A., Molepo, N., Mushayanyama, T. and Ngarava, S. (2022). The invisible crisis: the determinants of local food insecurity in Gauteng municipalities, South Africa. British Food Journal, 124(13), pp. 274-289.

Ginsburg, C., Collinson, M. A., Gómez-Olivé, F. X., Harawa, S., Pheiffer, C. F. and White, M. J. (2022). The impact of COVID-19 on a cohort of origin residents and internal migrants from South Africa's rural northeast. SSM-Population Health, 17, 101049.

Modiba, M. and Mkhize, S. P. (2022). Changes in socio-economic characteristics of formal and informal workers in Gauteng, South Africa: Evidence from the 2017/18 and 2020/21 Quality of Life Surveys. Southern African Journal of Demography, 22(1), pp. 126-173.

Background to the survey results

Data collection

Data collection for the sixth iteration of the GCRO’s flagship Quality of Life Survey 6 (2020/21) was completed in late May 2021. With strict COVID-19 safety protocols in place, GeoSpace International fieldworkers conducted 13 616 interviews with randomly sampled respondents across all of Gauteng's 529 wards.

QoL fieldwork copy.jpg

Quality of Life survey fieldwork. Photos by GeoSpace International.

Preparations for QoL 2020/21 started in 2019, and have been substantially informed by the Quality of Life ten year review. Funding for this iteration has been sourced from the Gauteng Provincial Government, with additional contributions from the Cities of Ekurhuleni, Johannesburg and Tshwane. Following a rigorous tendering process, GeoSpace International was appointed as the QoL 2020/21 service provider. GeoSpace previously implemented QoL III (2013/14), and has extensive experience with large-scale household-based data collection in South Africa.

The survey questionnaire is slightly shorter than in previous iterations, but we retained our longitudinal core. We also incorporated modules providing deeper insights into issues of governance, social mobility, and interpersonal violence, along with questions on the impact of COVID-19 on respondents’ lives. Respondents were recruited from randomly selected dwelling units across every ward in the province. Ethical clearance was received from the University of the Witwatersrand Human Research Ethics Committee (non-medical).

Training for data collectors took place in two phases, during the weeks of September 28, 2020, and October 19, 2020. Training events took place with strict COVID-19 prevention protocols, with screening, social distancing, masks and sanitiser, and good ventilation in place.

QoL training.jpg

QoL training 2.jpg

Quality of Life survey training. Photos by GCRO.

A successful field pilot took place during the weeks of October 5 and 12, with over 100 interviews fully completed. The pilot provided valuable feedback on all aspects of data collection, and allowed us to fine-tune various aspects of the project. Full-scale data collection began on 26 October 2020.

Quality of Life 10 year review

Planning and implementation of the Quality of Life 2020/21 Survey has been strongly informed by the findings of the Quality of Life 10 year review project.

Other Quality of Life surveys

All Quality of Life survey data is made freely available under a CC BY 4.0 license. Data can be accessed via the DataFirst service based at UCT, or on request from the GCRO.

Overview of the Quality of Life Survey

Quality of Life Survey V (2017/18)

Quality of Life Survey IV (2015/16)

Quality of Life Survey III (2013/14)

Quality of Life Survey II (2011)

Quality of life Survey I (2009)

Last updated: 02 November 2023.


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