Durban's burial societies and funeral homes : coping with the increased mortality due to HIV/AIDS.
Girardo, William M.
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Given the increasing number of deaths associated with the HIV/AIDS epidemic in South Africa, funerals have become a heavy financial burden on lower-income families, each costing the equivalent of several months' income or more. Three main choices are available to families to assist with the payment of funerals: burial societies, burial schemes provided by funeral homes, and formal insurers. This thesis will seek to discover how burial societies and funeral homes offering burial schemes are coping with the increased mortality. Initial thoughts about the industry would equate the increasing deaths and subsequent funerals with an increase in business and profits. However, that might not be the case. This study conducted personal interviews with the managers of burial societies, funeral homes, and others within the funeral industry to ascertain a better understanding of the issues and problems. Families invest in a burial society to provide assistance with a funeral because they trust the burial society to deliver their services when needed. This study has shown that burial societies are hindered by a lack of managerial skills and are hesitant to change their business structure (such as increasing fees or limiting beneficiaries) to offset the increase in money spent on funerals, which is rapidly outpacing their income. Funeral homes offer burial schemes in addition to their funeral services to attract and maintain business. These burial schemes are better managed than their burial society counterparts, but an increase in competition, especially from illegal establishments, is drawing away an increasing amount of customers and profits.