Cleaning service SweepSouth has published its latest Pay and Working Conditions for Domestic Workers report for 2021, revealing how much money domestic workers are getting paid in South Africa.
The report gives an overview of the working conditions of domestic workers, including cleaners and gardeners, based on survey responses from 7,000 workers in the last year.
It is also framed in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has had a massive impact on these jobs in South Africa.
According to the group’s findings, around 20% of domestic workers lost their job over the last year due to the pandemic. This aligns with numbers reported by Stats SA in its quarterly labour force surveys, which found that close to 250,000 domestic workers lost work during the onset of lockdown in South Africa.
Comparing first quarter 2021 data to first quarter 2020 data, 160,000 domestic workers are still without work. South Africa has around 1 million domestic workers.
The Covid-19 pandemic also had an impact on earnings for those who were working over the period.
SweepSouth’s SweepStar average earnings increased slightly since the 2020 report, but earnings have not yet recovered to 2019 levels.
Domestic workers, who are not on the SweepSouth platform saw a decrease in their average earnings from last year, which falls below the minimum wage increase as of 1 March 2021.
“This may be as a result of increased income pressure on employers, as well as lower-paid domestic workers returning to work,” the group said, adding that recent data points to domestic worker earnings still falling far below a living wage.
According to the data, domestic workers – not on the SweepSouth platform – earn between R2,614 and R2,916 a month. The minimum wage for domestic workers is just over R3,000 a month.
The more worrying finding from the survey is that one in five domestic workers (21%) are earning less than R1,500 a month, and two-thirds earn below minimum wage.
Only 1% reported earning more than R6,000 a month.
Earnings for domestic workers in Gauteng are 8% higher than in the Western Cape and 27% higher than the rest of South Africa.
While most domestic workers have one primary role (ie, cleaning) the more roles they take on, the higher their pay. Childcare was found to be the most lucrative domestic worker role.
“While SweepSouth has advocated for an improvement in pay for domestic workers across the board, we have been met by the challenge of a slow economy and a lack of willingness and/or the ability to pay more.
“This has meant that attempts to raise minimum pricing have often led to a decrease in average earnings. However, we have been more successful with introducing various additional ways for customers to voluntarily contribute more to workers.”
Despite the challenges, SweepSouth said that the increases in the minimum wage for domestic workers over the past few years have contributed to an upward pressure in earnings.
“Continued increases matched with better enforcement hold the potential for significant improvement in domestic worker earnings in the years to come,” it said.