Domestic workers were hardest hit by the lockdown. Picture: Dinuka Liyanawatte/ Reuters.
Domestic workers were hardest hit by the lockdown. Picture: Dinuka Liyanawatte/ Reuters.

Domestic workers hit hard by Covid-19, job losses

By Asanda Sokanyile Time of article published Oct 17, 2020

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HUNDREDS of thousands of domestic workers across the country are now faced with either underemployment, or no employment at all.

The third annual SweepSouth Report on pay and working conditions for domestic work in South Africa painted a stark picture of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the lives of domestic workers.

The report showed that underemployment peaked during the lockdown, with 80% of respondents reporting they worked fewer than eight hours a day, and 74% earning less than R2 500 a month, up significantly from the pre-lockdown figure of 37%.

This report was compiled from almost 5 000 responses, overwhelmingly from women (97%).

Last month, Stats SA published its Quarterly Labour Force Survey for the three months to June 2020, showing that 2.2 million South Africans lost their jobs in the second quarter.

One of the groups hit hardest by the lockdown are domestic workers, with 259 000 losing their jobs over the period.

Nokuzola Njoli lost her job when the couple she worked for in Blaauwberg got divorced. She said both cited lack of funds to continue with her contract.

Co-founder of the United Domestic Workers of South Africa, Pinky Mashiane, said that though she disputed the latest Stats SA figures, she agreed that a large number of domestic workers had been dealt a bad hand since the implementation of lockdown.

“Where does Stats SA get the figure of 250 000 domestic workers having lost jobs because there are over a million domestic workers in the country but most of them are not registered with the UIF and because the CCMA was not open to take new cases, many have not filed their grievances of unfair dismissal,” she said.

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