Report on pay and working conditions for domestic work in SA
- The 2022 report: https://bit.ly/3JQIkTd
SweepSouth Chief Operating Officer
In SweepSouth’s fifth annual Report on Pay and Working Conditions for Domestic Workers, as the largest ongoing report of its kind anywhere in the world, we are provided with unprecedented insights into the lives and livelihoods of the women and men who care for our homes and our families. First published in 2018, we have been able to show the progress in domestic worker pay and conditions leading up to the global COVID-19 pandemic, and the subsequent regression as the pandemic and lockdown restrictions were implemented. Our fourth annual report started to show some signs of recovery, but much of the optimism that this would continue into 2022 has been snuffed out as we face one of the toughest economic and social climates in living memory. It is against this backdrop that the 2022 report was compiled.
This year’s report generated over 7 500 responses. While the vast majority of respondents were from South Africa, we have been able to include a second snapshot of conditions within the Kenyan market. This has allowed us to provide comparisons over time and between markets in worker pay and work conditions. This gives us a broader perspective of the situation on the ground and helps our understanding of domestic worker needs across the globe.
This year’s results continue to emphasise the disproportionate burden that domestic workers carry in their households. The majority are women (ZA: 94%, KE: 68%), sole breadwinners (83%), single caregivers (ZA: 63%, KE: 70%), and support multiple dependents (ZA: ~4, KE: ~3). Workers continue to have to sacrifice basic needs in order to provide for their families as costs outstrip earnings. This leaves families with poor financial security with very few workers having any savings at all (ZA: 10%, KE: 21%). Furthermore, many workers are forced into taking on debt (ZA: 39%, KE: 73%) trapping them within a vicious cycle.
This burden has been exacerbated by devastating job losses in the industry, with 25% of South African respondents and 69% of Kenyan respondents reporting having lost their job as a domestic worker in the last year. Many are left with nothing after losing their job as compliance with employment regulations is low. It is no wonder then that the risk of unemployment is the greatest driver of poor mental health among our respondents (ZA: 47%).
While it’s encouraging to report a recovery in earnings from previous years’ reports, especially among domestic workers who work on the SweepSouth platform, it is sad to say that this still falls far below a living wage, especially with inflation soaring the world over. Probable increases in the average costs of basic goods in the months to come will likely eat into any disposable income or savings that domestic workers might have and plunge many further into debt.
While we have continued to report on abuse faced in the workplace by domestic workers, for the first time we have shone a light on the abuse workers face at home. Around 1 in 20
respondents reported that they are currently experiencing domestic abuse. Among men and women, verbal abuse was reported most commonly (ZA: M - 58% W - 75%). Around 55% of women respondents reported experiencing physical abuse while around 25% reported experiencing sexual abuse. While these results are disturbing, we believe that they are key to providing a holistic picture to the lived experiences of domestic workers and how best we can drive change and support for men and women in the industry.
A captivating result of this year’s report was that vaccine hesitancy seems to have dwindled amongst domestic workers, with a reported vaccination rate (ZA: 75%) much higher than the nationally reported rate of just over 30%. It is in stark contrast to what we found in last year’s report where South African respondents showed great vaccine hesitancy even though
many had experienced the loss of someone they knew due to COVID-19.
This summary is just the tip of the iceberg. In the report, you will find further insights into the lives of domestic workers. Some will be points to ponder, others may be aggravating, while others may be cause for positivity. Most of all, we want this report to motivate you to be part of driving change in the domestic work industry. Dive into the report to find out how.