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Public statement by Socio-Economic Rights Initiative, Izwi Domestic Workers Alliance, South African Domestic and Allied Workers Union, and United of Domestic Workers of South Africa.

Last week, Minister for Employment and Labour, Thulas Nxesi announced the National Minimum Wage increase for 2022, including the announcement that domestic workers will be entitled to 100% of the national minimum wage.

From 1 March 2022, employers, including employers of domestic workers, will be required to pay their employees a minimum of R23, 19 per hour, which translates to approximately R4019, 57 per month for domestic workers who work 40 hours a week and R4522, 02 for workers who work 45 hours a week.

Until now, a lower minimum wage rate was imposed on domestic workers, who earned 75% of the national minimum wage in 2019 and 2020; and 88% in 2021. Domestic worker unions and allied organisations welcome the raising of the minimum wage for domestic workers to 100% of the national minimum wage, a decision which affects South Africa’s 900 000 domestic workers, the majority of whom are women.

It is our hope that this decision signals the growing recognition of domestic workers as “real” workers equally deserving of the entitlements afforded to all other workers. Given the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the sector, whose numbers dropped from just over 1 million domestic workers to 745 000 at the height of the pandemic, the minimum wage for 2022 stands to significantly affect the lives of domestic workers and their families.

While this change at a policy level represents a significant step in realising the rights of domestic workers, the reality on the ground warrants attention. A 2021 report by online home services platform, SweepSouth, on pay and working conditions for domestic workers across Africa, reveals that 66% of domestic workers earned below the minimum wage, which was then approximately R3308, 91 for domestic workers working 40 hours a week, and that 21% earned less than R1500.2 This highlights the ongoing issues of non-compliance by employers and the need to strengthen the Department of Employment and Labour’s enforcement mechanisms.

Furthermore, while we welcome the inclusion of domestic workers in the national minimum wage, we also call attention to the fact that for the majority of workers, the minimum wage, the lowest pay an employer can legally provide to their employee, is insufficient to meet the basic needs of workers and their families. According to Statistics South Africa, the poverty line is R1335 per person per month.

We therefore call for the national minimum wage to be regularly adjusted to the cost of living to ensure an adequate standard of living for workers and their families.

In addition to the above recommendations on wages, we make the following recommendations on improving the working conditions of domestic workers and other aspects of the sector. We encourage the Department of Employment and Labour to:

  • Promote the recognition of domestic work as real work and the value of domestic work to the South African economy;

  • Raise public awareness of domestic workers rights;

  • Promote registrations for Unemployment Insurance and Compensation for Occupational Injuries with the respective funds amongst employers;

  • Strengthen its enforcement mechanisms in the domestic work sector by securing a sufficient number of qualified labour inspectors and ensuring that their compliance orders are respected and enforced.

  • Ensure that domestic workers have access to effective complaint mechanisms, including by ensuring that all officials of the Department of Employment and Labour and the CCMA respond professionally to domestic workers reports of mistreatment and follow due process to ensure that employers who are not meeting labour regulations are held accountable.

Contact details: • Maggie Mthombeni, Izwi Domestic Workers Alliance, Co-Founder and Case Manager: / 073 153 1167 • Myrtle Witbooi, South African Domestic Service and Allied Workers Union (SADSAWU), General Secretary: 078 841 4382. • Pinky Mashiane, United Domestic Workers of South Africa (UDWOSA), President: 073 291 2244. • Kelebogile Khunou, SERI researcher: 079 135 4002.

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