15,000 domestic workers lost their jobs this year

Stats SA’s latest unemployment data shows that around 15,000 domestic workers lost their jobs in the first quarter of 2019.

The statistics body revealed on Wednesday (15 May) that the country’s unemployment rate has risen in the first three months of the year to 27.6%, 0.5 percentage points higher than the last quarter of 2018 – where it sat at 27.1%.

Including ‘discouraged work seekers’ this put the expanded unemployment rate at 38%, Stats SA said.

Quarter on quarter, most occupations saw a big drop in employment, including domestic workers, which saw 15,000 job losses to a total of 1.01 million employed by the end of March (a drop of 1.5%).

In total, 237,000 jobs were lost in the quarter. Year-on-year, however, the sector was one of only four to be in a better position that at the start of 2018, with 22,000 more domestic workers employed than the 991,000 recorded at that time (2.2% increase).

A ‘domestic worker’ is any worker who performs domestic work in a private household and who received, or is entitled to receive a wage.

This includes cleaners and gardeners; a person employed by a household as a driver of a motor vehicle; a person who takes care of children, the aged, the sick, the frail or the disabled; and domestic workers employed or supplied by employment services.

What domestic workers get paid

The decline in domestic worker jobs over this period is significant because it lines up with the introduction of the new National Minimum Wage which came into effect on 1 January 2019.

While the NMW is set at R20 per hour, domestic workers were one of three category exemptions, where the minimum was set at R15 per hour.

The NWM does not trump any minimum wages established by sectoral determinations, so the R16.03 per hour set for domestic workers working less than 27 hours per week in area A zones takes precedence over the national minimum wage.

More on the minimum wage for domestic workers can be found here.


Employment by occupation

All occupations categories experienced employment decreases in Q1 2019, with the exception of manager (up by 19,000) and professional (up by 5,000) occupations compared to the previous quarter.

Craft and related trade (101,000) occupations recorded the largest employment losses, followed by elementary (44,000), technician (26,000) and clerk (25,000) occupations, while plant and machine operator occupations recorded the lowest decrease of 14,000 jobs.

Year-on-year changes show that losses in employment were mainly driven by elementary (87,000), clerk (67,000), sales and services (24,000), craft and related trade (22,000) and skilled agriculture (15,000) occupations.

Manager (41,000), technician (33,000), domestic worker (22,000), plant and machine operator (21,000) and professional (11 000) occupations recorded gains in employment in Q1 2019 compared to Q1 2018.

Read: South Africa’s unemployment rate climbs to 27.6%

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15,000 domestic workers lost their jobs this year