Devina Haripersad
3 minute read
3 Aug 2022
5:19 pm

Study shows SA domestic workers get the raw end of the deal

Devina Haripersad

With the sharp rise in cost of living, it is the most vulnerable sectors of society that are feeling it most.

Picture: iStock

At least 79% of domestic workers are the sole breadwinners, with 64% being single mothers, this is according to a survey by SweepSouth on pay and working conditions for domestic workers in South Africa.

The survey, which painted a grim reality for domestic workers in the face of the economic climate, conducted the study with more than 4 000 domestic workers currently employed in the country.

That reality has darkened even more after it was reported that consumers have seen the highest inflation in 13 years.

According to the study, the average income of domestic workers is between R3 000 and R4 000 per month.

Even with the current mandatory increase in minimum wage rates – which increased to R23 per hour as of March 2022 –  this figure has not changed by much.

Assuming a domestic worker is working 160 hours a month (eight hours a day, 20 days a month), the monthly wage comes to R3 710 for the month – a figure that doesn’t quite cut it in the face of the current shopping basket costs.

Johan Van Tonder, Economist for Financial Wellness at Momentum, said the future of our economy is not a positive one, and neither is employment or household income.

“This is going to cascade down in an all-encompassing way when it comes to consumer finances,” Van Tonder said.

He was speaking on the back of the release of the Q2 2022 Momentum-Unisa Consumer Financial Vulnerability Index report.

The report predicted steep increases in municipal tariffs that will pose a further risk to consumer finances in Q3 2022 in addition to current risks such as higher interest rates, fuel- and food prices and load shedding – a recipe for a storm that will hit the most vulnerable sectors of society even harder.

Outlining the monthly cost of living for the average domestic worker, SweepSouth drew up a budget of about R965 for food, R82 for airtime, R1 054 or rent, R481 for transport and R308 for electricity. Add to that R136 for school fees. That is a total of R3 026, leaving only R684 as disposable income.

Victress Mtutu (40), a domestic helper living in Johannesburg, who explained that while the budget put together by SweepSouth was fairly spot on, it was missing one of the larger expenses that domestic workers have to factor in – black tax.

“Yes, this is roughly how much I spend on food, transport and electricity, but we also have to send money back home for our families.

“So, we don’t really have this thing of left-overs or as you say, disposable income. I spend roughly R2 200 on food (including delivery costs) for my family. To manage the new cost of living in recent times, I changed my child’s school so that we don’t have to pay so much.

“She was very upset at first, but she understood. We also cut out goodies, my child doesn’t have goodies to eat anymore, she just has to make do with basics. I try to supplement my income by getting other jobs outside of my main one. But it is still very hard for us, ” Mtutu said.