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Survey portrays financial struggles of domestic workers as result of the pandemic

The survey provides a grim picture of the financial difficulties that domestic workers endure as a result of Covid-19's influence. Picture: Paballo Thekiso

The survey provides a grim picture of the financial difficulties that domestic workers endure as a result of Covid-19's influence. Picture: Paballo Thekiso

Published Aug 6, 2022

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Cape Town - With the cost of living at an all-time high, a study conducted by a domestic cleaning company has painted a bleak image of the realities domestic workers had to confront in the aftermath of the pandemic.

According to the 2022 SweepSouth Report on Pay and Working Conditions for Domestic Workers, the impact of the pandemic on domestic workers has left many without jobs due to employers moving to different cities and their ability to work from home. The survey, with over 7 500 responses, also revealed that there is a high level of debt among South African domestic workers, with over 15% of domestic workers owing money to more than four people or institutions.

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While the report indicated that domestic worker pay had increased on average, SweepSouth CEO Aisha Pandor expressed concern about how the present cost of living would affect the budget of many domestic workers.

"We went into this survey knowing that the numbers would paint a grim picture. These past few years have been trying times, and the recent increase in the cost of food, fuel, transport, and more is felt the hardest by those who already have little to spend. This, in turn, affects mental health, physical health, and so much more. As a platform and company that advocates for the rights of domestic workers, we will continue to lend a voice to this sector of society, educate our clients, and assist those who use our platform in new and innovative ways," said  Pandor.

The survey further revealed that domestic workers, on average, spend 8% more on food and 10% more on transport every month compared to last year. The survey further indicated that 60% of domestic workers who are South African are in debt, and 18% of domestic workers indicated that they were part of a stokvel.

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Noting the challenges presented in the report, the South African Domestic Service and Allied Workers Union (SADSAWU) General Secretary, Myrtle Witbooi, said that discussions are being held in terms of improving the lives of domestic workers.

"We are trying our best to liaise with our members so they understand the challenges they are facing. We also appeal to employers to cut days but don’t dismiss them because, according to the national wage, they cannot dismiss the workers. Yes, many workers are still earning less than the new wage, but currently, we need to save jobs. So we need to educate and educate. We also know it is hard to survive for our workers, but we need to tackle the problems wisely and not create more unemployment.

"Domestic workers earn the lowest salary, yet it is so hard to understand why they are dismissed. Abuse is there all the time as they work in isolation behind high walls. However, a discussion was held with the labour department to see how we could provide a helpline for domestic workers. This will enable them to press a number on their phone for help. We are also engaging with the department of labour on all of the above and to find ways to improve the working conditions of workers. We also feel that the basic income grant should be much more," said Witbooi.

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