It seems the major economic issues South Africa is facing have had a knock-on effect on the most marginalised and poorest people in the state. That being domestic workers.
According to SweepSouth’s 2023 Report on Domestic Workers Pay and Work Conditions, the effects of SA’s power cuts, inflation, and higher cost of living have disproportionately affected domestic workers – 94% of whom are women.
Are you still able to afford a domestic worker?— Business Report (@busrep) August 1, 2023
SweepSouth, through their research, notes that the average domestic worker in South Africa is their family’s sole breadwinner and caregiver, supporting an average of four dependants at home.
The annual report reveals that the average domestic worker in South Africa is 37 years old and earns about R2 989 a month from domestic work as her only source of income while being the only breadwinner in her family.
“She has to split this money among daily expenses such as food (which has seen 12% price increases over the past year), housing, transport, electricity, mobile phone data or airtime, school fees and other expenses”, according to the research.
“The average domestic worker spends around R694 more than she earns, is unable to save, has no medical aid and owes about R3,599 to shops, friends and loan sharks, among others”.
Financial indicators at a glance
- 75% don’t make enough money to save
- Only 9% have savings
- 35% are in debt
A desperate situation
The research also showed that given the high inflation and rising cost of living, many domestic workers are trying to increase their earnings through more roles. But it should be noted that only 42% of those surveyed were able to generate more income.
“Those are the lucky ones”.
“Consistent with previous reports, we can see the significant burden placed on domestic workers to support themselves and their families at home. Continued economic difficulties will compound the pressure on workers,” says Luke Kannemeyer, Managing Director at SweepSouth.
The report also reveals massive amounts of job losses suffered by domestic workers in the past year, with the leading cause of job losses coming from employers moving home and 59% of those employers moving overseas.
This represents a 15% increase in domestic workers who lost their means of income due to the brain drain in South Africa this year, compared to 2022.
Moreover, 68% of those who lost their jobs last year were not registered for the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF), and only 52% of those registered were able to submit successful claims.
“This motivates the urgent contemplation of universal unemployment benefits to ensure greater coverage and easier access,” adds Kannemeyer.
Predictably, unemployment is the number one challenge negatively impacting the mental health of South Africa’s domestic workers.
More positively, the survey shows that while the situation is still very challenging for domestic workers in South Africa, earnings continue the upward trend reported in 2022 for those domestic workers who use SweepSouth.
“While South Africa has minimum wage and other labour legislation protecting domestic workers, the report indicates that this is often not adhered to. Without innovative ways to improve implementation and enforcement, domestic workers will not see much benefit,” Kannemeyer concludes.