Domestic Workers’ Average Cost Of Living

At 26.6%, South Africa’s employment rate is unsustainable in the face of the rising cost of living, and job losses due to slow economic growth. Unemployment in South Africa is higher than that in Botswana (18.4%), Gabon (18.5%) and Namibia (25.5%).

Large sections of the South African population suffer from chronic joblessness, trapped in a cycle of poverty that has overwhelmed generations of South Africans, reflected in the fact that nearly 39% of unemployed South Africans have never worked before. This figure, among young people, stands at 60.3% – a wake up call if ever there was one.

In 2018, we put together a report on Pay and Working Conditions for Domestic Work in SA in an attempt to gain greater insight into the factors influencing the lives of domestic workers. Questions relating to pay and working conditions were posed to domestic workers linked to SweepSouth as well as those not using our online platform.

The poll represents a portion of the blue-collar workforce that is most vulnerable, and seldom heard in the public discourse around the national minimum wage. Understanding the extent of the problem of unemployment and underemployment is one step towards finding a solution.

Our Report on Pay and Working Conditions for Domestic Work in South Africa indicates that 84% of domestic workers are the sole breadwinners and 70% are single mothers supporting, on average, three dependents. The report takes an in-depth look at the lived financial reality and conditions in the domestic work industry in South Africa, in the context of high poverty rates and a stagnant job market.

Average Earnings of Domestic Workers

The survey of more than 500 domestic workers shows that most domestic workers earn between R3 000 and R4 000 per month.

According to figures set out by the department of labour, domestic workers must get paid a minimum of R1 641 up to R2 545. The current national minimum wage of R3 500 doesn’t apply to domestic workers. The agreed national minimum wage with the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) is set at R20 an hour for major sectors, with the exception of sectors such as farm and domestic workers.

While SweepSouth does not employ domestic workers, our platform has created thousands of income opportunities for unemployed and underemployed domestic workers.

SweepStar’s Earnings

SweepStars (domestic workers on the SweepSouth platform) start on our platform earning around 65% of the booking fee, which quickly increase to up to 80% of the total booking fee after their first 2 – 3 months. At this rate and with our average booking size of 7 hours, this equates to R3 500 in the “probation” period, and roughly R4 200 per month thereafter.

The initial rate covers the additional support required in the first few months, paid background and reference checks and materials used and provided during onboarding.


More than 78% of workers polled say they have no savings or pension. At least 98% of the respondents said they don’t have medical aid. The December 2017 SARB Quarterly Bulletin numbers reveal household savings to disposable income at 0.2% per month, meaning households are saving 0.2% of their income, which indicates South Africans are starting to save again after a savings ratio of -2.3% in 2013.



In terms of education, 63% of domestic workers polled say they have a matric certificate, while 29.5% say they didn’t finish school. The cost of education sees around 29% of their earnings between R500 and R1 000 for school fees.

Cost Of Living

The cost of living for lower income workers is rarely documented in a way that explains how vulnerable they are in the South African economy.

A simple calculation based on the average earnings, and the average amount of money spent on everyday expenses underscores the need for higher wages for the unskilled workforce. On average domestic workers spend over R4 000 on monthly expenses – for rent (R1 000), transport (R1 500), electricity (R400), food (R900), airtime (R100) and school fees (R500).

With these costs weighing heavily on the monthly expenses of domestic workers, they’re often left with very little for the remainder of the month. The constant rise in fuel prices, for example, also affects all aspects of a domestic worker’s monthly expenses, putting further pressure on their budgets and their need to earn more.

As a member of the public who employs a domestic worker, there are many easy ways that one can assist with the most simple expenses.

Transport is one of domestic workers biggest monthly expenses and a small transport allowance/subsidy goes a long way to helping increase there “take home” earnings. Providing lunch on the job is another easy way to reduce their costs, especially when one considers their limited transport access to shops for (grocery) shopping. Donating any old clothes or household items is a simple way of contributing value in a non-monetary way and can add a lot of value and potential savings to your domestic worker’s life.

We (SweepSouth) has since increased the rate we charge homeowners who use the platform in order to effect an increase up to 15% for domestic workers offering their services on the platform.

SweepSouth was proud to release this report into the public domain to inspire more action in addressing the problem of unemployment and the pay conditions of domestic workers.


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