This policy paper analyses the early effects of the COVID-19 crisis and ‘hard lockdown’ period in South Africa on women’s and men’s work in the paid and unpaid (care) economies. Because women and men typically have different roles in both of these sectors, it is likely that they would experience the negative effects of the crisis unevenly, potentially exacerbating existing inequalities. Based on the first wave of the NIDS-CRAM survey, we find that women have been more severely affected than men in the early phase of the crisis in South Africa, namely the ‘hard’ lockdown period. Net job losses between February and April 2020 were higher for women than for men, with women accounting for two-thirds of the total net job losses. Among those who remained in employment, there was also a bigger fall in average hours worked per week for women than for men. Compounding these disproportionate employment losses were disproportionate increases in unpaid childcare as a result of the lockdown and school closures. While the majority of both men and women living with children reported doing large amounts of extra childcare in April, women were doing relatively more. Nearly 80% of women who were spending more time than usual on childcare were spending more than 4 extra hours a day on it, compared to 65% of men. This gender gap persists even among men and women who reported being employed in April. Understanding who bears the brunt of the crisis in the workplace and in the home is key to designing appropriate policy responses.