Domestic workers

Data shows domestic workers losing their jobs as South Africans leave the country

New data released by SweepSouth shows the devastating impact of out-migration and out-migration on domestic workers in South Africa.

The group released its fifth annual survey of domestic workers on Monday August 1, outlining trends in how personal employees are paid in the country and how their lives have been affected by the Covid pandemic and changes in employment. .

SweepSouth’s survey – which attracted 7,500 responses, giving it a comprehensive view of the sector – showed that domestic workers were under significant pressure from both an economic and social perspective.

A quarter of respondents (25%) said they had lost their job in the past year, drawing a line under data from various sources saying the same, such as the Old Mutual Savings and Investment Monitor (OMSIM) survey and figures from Stats SA .

Data released by Statistics South Africa’s Quarterly Labor Force Survey (QLFS) for the first quarter of 2022 showed that the hiring of domestic workers declined significantly during the quarter.

The QLFS shows that the number of domestic workers in the country fell from 949,000 in the fourth quarter of 2021 to 808,000 workers in the first quarter of 2022 – a sharp drop of 14.9 percentage points quarter on quarter, or a loss of 141,000 jobs.

SweepSouth estimates around 100,000 female domestic workers and 25,000 male domestic workers have lost their jobs since its last report – and Stats SA’s second quarter data for 2022 will show a continuation of this trend.

“Job losses were dominated by two causes: employers no longer being able to afford the services of their domestic worker and their employer moving,” SweepSouth said.

More than a quarter (28%) of domestic workers said they lost their job because their employer moved: 33% of employers moved to another city in South Africa, while almost half (48% ) have moved to another country.

“These trends have been compounded by the acceleration in the emigration of skilled professionals as well as the trends of out-migration observed during the Covid-19 pandemic,” SweepSouth said.

The second biggest factor in domestic workers losing their jobs is that an employer cannot afford to pay them, SweepSouth said.

Old Mutual’s Savings and Investment Monitor (OMSIM) survey shows that more and more South African households are choosing to do without a domestic worker to save money each month.

Almost a third of households surveyed by Old Mutual for the study said they would reduce and move away from domestic help in the home.

Historically, Old Mutual’s OMSIM has shown that domestic workers are often one of the first monthly household expenses to be reduced during a financial crisis.

The SweepSouth report shows that the median earnings of domestic workers in South Africa are R2,929 per month for women and R2,797 for men. Educators obtained the highest average at R2,997 per month on average with a median of five working days.

These figures are still well below the national minimum wage set for domestic workers in the country.

As of March 1, 2022, the national minimum wage for each ordinary hour worked has been reduced from R21.69 to R23.19. For domestic workers, the increase in the minimum wage has been much larger, starting at a rate of R19.09 per hour, or 88% of the national minimum wage in 2021.

Assuming a domestic worker works 160 hours per month (eight hours per day, 20 days per month), the monthly wage amounts to R3,710 for the month. The minimum wage is expected to be increased again in 2023.

The largest sample of domestic workers in the SweepSouth survey said they worked a full day – between 8 and 9 hours a day, five days a week.


Read: How much does an average domestic worker earn in South Africa