Kim Harrisberg


Living on the edge

AS THE country's economy narrowly avoided a junk status and the standard of living is rapidly escalating, it remans to be seen how the country's labour force that is in the low end of the economy will survive such turbulance.

Domestic workers, which are the often fogerten labour force in the country will bare the brunt of rough economic times as indicators show that even though the department of labour has amended their minimun wage; that might still not be enough.

According to a research conducted by CodeFourAfrica last year, the Eastern Cape falls under the worst provinces one would want to be work as a domestic worker in. The study was conducted among home owners that employed demostic workers for households assistance. The home owners had to respond to a google document in a form of a survey and 39% of the sample that responded were home owners from the Eastern Cape.

Case Study 1

The data collected by Code4SA shows that the avarage daily rate paid in the Eastern Cape is at R137, which is the second lowest after Limpompo. The province which has the top minimum dail rate is the Western Cape, at R186 a day. The province with the maximum daily rate is Gauteng, with home owners paying an avarage of R450 a day.

Myrtle Witbooi General Secretary of the South African Domestic Workers Union said that society and the department of labour needed to start valuing domestic workers.

“When you look at a domestic worker's wage, what do you base it on, how do you justify a wage for domestic workers. We should start establishing the value of domestic workers and their worth and I think we will come up with different wages for them.

The department justifies the current situation to iflation rate, but did they look at bus fare, clothing and all the other expensises.We found out that domestic workers live in borrowing money; and those institutions are enriching themselves because at the end of the month the whole salary goes to that institution,” she said

Last month in his budget speech, minister Pravin Gorhdan did not raise income or value-added tax, but preferred to inject state revenue from user-based taxes. This will also have an impact on domestic workers spending patterns.

Myrtle Witbooi - General Secretary of the South African Domestic Workers Union

6.8% of the employed SA population are domestic workers

Worldwide, there are 53 million domestic workers

Domestic work in South Africa has its roots firmly embedded in a history of colonial oppression, racial segregation and exclusion of domestic workers from legal protection.

Exploited, Undervalued - And Essential: Domestic Workers and the Realisation of their Rights -- Darcy du Toit, academic and researcher, University of the Western Cape

Amended figures released by the department of labour late last year for the period 1 December 2015 to 30 November show that minimum wages for domestic workers who work more than 27 ordinary hours per week, are at R2230.70 a month. This means that they are to be paid R514.82 or to narrow it down R11.44 an hour.

For those domestics working less than 27 hours per week in metropolitan areas, the stipulated monthly salary is R1566.35 , or R13.39 an hour. Outside the metropolitan areas for those working less than 27 hours per week, the monthly and hourly pay is R1412.49 and R12.07 respectively.

Case Study 2

From 1 March 2016, to 28 February 2017 the minimum wage for farm labourers will be set at R2,778.78 a month, at an hourly rate of R14.25.

In the contract cleaning sector, the minimum hourly wage for the Buffalo City Metro and other local councils is R16.41. However for the Nelson Mandela Local Metro it's R16.98.

There are 53 million domestic workers worldwide, which is almost the size of the South African population, according to the International Labour Organisation and, in South Africa, domestic workers make up 6.8% of the employed population, according to the Labour Force Survey.

Thanks to Siphe Macanda, Raymond Joseph, Adi Eyal and Jason Norwood-Young.