Employment and Labour minister Thulas Nxesi has published the new minimum wage for domestic workers in South Africa, with a significant increase introduced compared to prior years.
In a gazette published on Monday (7 February), the minister said that the national minimum wage for domestic workers is now R23.19 for each ordinary hour. This change will take effect from 1 March 2022.
This is now the same rate as the normal minimum wage in South Africa – a landmark move with specific worker groups such as domestic workers and farmworkers historically earning less than the full amount since the National Minimum Wage Act was first proclaimed in 2018.
Under the Act, the minimum wage for domestic workers was initially set at 75% of the National Minimum Wage in 2020. The Commission proposed increasing it to 88% of the national minimum wage in 2021 and 100% in 2022.
Assuming a domestic worker is working 160 hours a month (8 hours a day, 20 days a month), the monthly wage comes to R3,710 for the month.
What people are actually paying
While this is the absolute lowest that South Africans can legally pay their domestic worker, data published by cleaning service SweepSouth in 2021 shows not only a dramatic drop in earnings due to the pandemic, but a continued trend of domestic workers not earning enough to cover their most basic needs.
According to the data, domestic workers – who are not on the SweepSouth platform – earn between R2,614 and R2,916 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 earned below 2021’s minimum wage. Only 1% reported earning more than R6,000 a month.
SweepStar 2021 data (before 2022 NMW increase)
The 2021 minimum wage, assuming 160 hours worked in a month, equated to R3,054 for domestic workers at R19.09 an hour. In 2022, this will increase to R3,710 at R23.19 an hour – an increase of 21.5%.
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.
In terms of the law, it is an unfair labour practice for an employer to unilaterally alter hours of work or other conditions of employment in implementing the national minimum wage.
The national minimum wage is the amount payable for the ordinary hours of work and does not include payment of allowances (such as transport, tools, food or accommodation) payments in kind (board or lodging), tips, bonuses and gifts.