Domestic workers are not given enough recognition
IN MOST Western societies, only the well-heeled can afford to employ domestic help. In this country, domestic helpers are so common that virtually every household in middle-income suburbs and above can afford to hire a domestic worker. In some households, they have multiple helpers.
Many successful professionals were raised by mothers who were employed as domestic workers.
Such mothers, who are predominantly black and coloured, devote much of their time raising the children of their employers, seeing their own only during weekends or at month-ends.
However, those guardian angels sacrifice their meagre earnings to make sure that their children have food in their tummies, shoes on their feet and a roof over their heads.
With the onset of stringent labour laws, which recognise the vital role these women play and the need to remunerate them fairly, stories are increasingly emerging of how they have been – and some still are – shortchanged. On page 4 we focus on the plight of some of these women.
It is a shame that one can work so hard for so long, and still take home the pittance that they earn.
One woman has toiled in the “kitchens” for 25 years and still earns R3 000 a month. This is not even what many of us pay to the tax man as PAYE.
It is true that this kind of work plays an important role in alleviating unemployment, in a country where more than a quarter of people are unemployment.
Roughly one in five South African women are domestic workers, and four out of five domestic workers work full-time (that is, more than 28 hours a week).
Personal services, of which domestic work is one component, make up 5.4% of gross domestic product.
However, the sad reality is that domestic workers – due to skewed employer-employee power relations – are still marginalised and face the axe if they stand up for their rights. They are regarded as dispensable – and easily replaceable. With so many jobless people knocking at our gates every day seeking employment, I guess this is understandable.
We salute these women, who are pillars of our society.