Domestic work
  • A new survey has found that 16% of South African domestic workers say they have been verbally or physically abused at work. 
  • Among 1,300 domestic workers surveyed, 27% reported living in shacks, and 79% were the main breadwinners for their households. 
  • In 2017, Stats SA said there were more than one million domestic workers in South Africa. 
  • Go to for more stories.

16% of South African domestic workers reported being verbally or physically abused at their workplaces, according to a new report.

That is up three percentage points since 2018. 

The 2019 "Report on Pay and Working Conditions for Domestic Work in South Africa", released on Sunday, is based on interviews with more than 1,300 domestic workers across the country about their working conditions. 

The report was compiled by SweepSouth, a digital domestic worker-booking platform. 

Also read: This SA couple cashed in all their savings to start the Uber of cleaning services – five years later they’re raking in revenue of R100 million

Of those interviewed, 27% said they live in shacks, 79% said they are the main breadwinner in their families, and 50% said they support four people financially. 

The typical South African domestic worker typically earns roughly R2,500 per month, about R17 per hour for a seven-hour workday, the report found. 

The national South African minimum wage is R20 per hour, but domestic workers are entitled to R15 an hour. 

Domestic workers said the spend most of their income on essentials that break down to:

  • between R701 and R1,000 per month on food; 
  • more than R1,500 per year on school fees;
  • between R61 and R100 per month data and airtime;
  • between R501 and R1,000 per month on rent;
  • more than R500 per month on transport. 

The report noted that 15,000 domestic workers lost their jobs between 2018 and 2019 due to the poor economic environment, while inflation and fuel increases drove up food prices. 

“As is often the case, it is those at the bottom of the economic ladder who suffered the worst in troubled economic times,” the report reads. 

In 2017, Statistics South Africa said 1.045 million people were employed as domestic workers, the highest number in recent years.

Also read: This is how much you’re supposed to pay your domestic worker

The SweepSouth report found that, despite being national legislation, most domestic workers (62%) said they were not registered with the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF), or do not know (27%) whether they are registered. 

Again in contravention of legislation, the majority of domestic workers said they do not receive a payslip every month (61%), and only 15% said they receive paid leave. 

85% of the domestic workers interviewed said they do not have a pension, 98% said they have a funeral plan, 55% said they have finished school or higher education, 64% said they receive no government aid, and only 2% said they have medical aid.

Only 14% reported being able to put away between R101 and R200 in savings a month.

Of the more than 1,300 domestic workers interviewed, 63% said they feel valued and respected by their employers. 

Aisha Pandor, CEO of SweepSouth, said the 2019 report proved the view that the R20 minimum wage is not living wage for most domestic workers. 

Domestic workers using the SweepSouth application are paid roughly R33 an hour, have UIF, have a contract, and have  accidental death and disability cover, she said.

“It is essential that employers learn and understand their legal obligations to the domestic workers they employ," Pandor said. 

"These requirements are in place to empower domestic workers to know their rights and to receive what is due to them." 

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