3rd Annual SweepSouth Report on Pay and Working Conditions for Domestic Work in South Africa

The third annual SweepSouth Report on Pay and Working Conditions for Domestic Work in South Africa paints a stark picture of the lives of the women who execute thorough cleaning services for our homes and offices.

With domestic work being a highly gendered profession, it is of no surprise that respondents to the survey were mostly women. Who is this woman?

Drawn from the responses, the current circumstances of a domestic worker during COVID-19 lockdown, on average, she is a single mother who is the main breadwinner in her household. She usually supports dependents including herself on an income of less than R2500 per month with little to no additional external support. However, she is faced with increased financial dependency due to the lockdown period and the increase in her cost of living. The highest educational qualification she has received is a matric or O-Level and she works less than 8 hours each day, which has resulted in a substantial drop in her earnings.

Through the domestic workers report, we had hoped to be able to demonstrate the continued albeit slow improvement in pay and working conditions within the domestic cleaning industry. With rapidly escalating expenses, even the return to work at the pay levels reported prior to lockdown, domestic workers will still be under severe pressure.

2020 has been a difficult period for all South Africans as the nation faced an unprecedented global crisis in the COVID-19 pandemic. This was compounded by South Africa struggling with a stagnant economy and marginal growth in the years leading up to 2020. This placed severe downward pressure on household incomes with as many as 34% of households expected to exit the middle class. Given domestic workers earn a subset of the income of the homes they work in, the pandemic is expected to have dire consequences for their livelihoods.

To gain further insight into the factors influencing the lives of domestic workers, questions relating to pay and current circumstances were posed to almost 5000 domestic workers, some of whom use the SweepSouth platform to get domestic work jobs, as well as those who do not. It represents a key voice which, due to its socio-economic status, is often overlooked in discussions that affect all aspects of their lives. And the results are as follows …


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