Upskilling Domestic Workers To Increase Their Employability

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Currently, there are at least 76 million domestic workers across the globe, who make up a significant part of the global workforce in informal employment and are among the most vulnerable groups of workers.


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Domestic workers are known to work for private households, often without clear terms of employment, unregistered in any book, and excluded from the scope of labour laws and legislation.

These are workers who are offered very low wages, work excessively long hours, have no guaranteed weekly day of rest and are even often subjected to various sorts of abuse and exploitation.

Speaking to the Skills Portal, Programs Manager at the Domestic Workers Association of Zimbabwe, Wellington Madovi says that the domestic work industry throughout Southern Africa falls short of being visible in the public space and has very weak representation.

“This results in most of the domestic workers being vulnerable to certain abuses, whether it be economic exploitation, physical abuse and even mental and emotional abuse,” says Madovi.

Domestic Worker Compensation

The domestic worker’s sector has long been identified as a problematic sector, as many workers are still paid way below minimum wage.

According to data by Statistics South Africa, household employees are struggling to keep up with the rising cost of living in the country. The data suggests that domestic worker wages in South Africa are tracking far below headline inflation.

The national minimum wage act, Act 9 of 2018 sets out minimum wages for domestics and specifies the working conditions such as hours of work, overtime pay, salary increases, deductions, annual and sick leave.

In 2022, the minimum wage for domestic workers reached parity with the national minimum wage, entitling domestic workers to earn R23.19 an hour, or around R3,700 a month if they are working full time.

However, a recent SweepSouth survey conducted in the household work sector showed that domestic workers in the country are still being severely underpaid, taking home on average R2,900 a month.

The survey showed that many domestic workers were, and in some areas still are, subjected to:

  • Unlawful deductions
  • Underpayment of National Minimum Wage
  • Non-compliant employment contracts
  • Long hours of work and non-registration to the Unemployment Insurance Fund and Compensation for Occupation Injuries and Diseases Act.
  • Verbal and Mental abuse

Domestic Worker Rights In SA

All workers have certain rights under the Constitution of South Africa and labour regulations. 

There are 4 important requirements employers have to adhere to:

  1. You must sign an employment contract with your employee.
  2. You must register your employee for UIF and pay UIF contributions each month.
  3. You must register your employee for COID. 
  4. You need to provide your employee with a pay slip each month. 

Despite the Department of Labour making progress in its efforts to regulate domestic work in South Africa, studies suggest that the exploitation of domestic workers can partly be attributed to gaps in national labour and employment legislation.

The law regarding domestic workers is specifically detailed in the Basic Conditions of Employment Act and subsequent amendments. This Act covers any staff who work in the household sector, this includes gardeners, cleaners, cooks, nannies, and au pairs – whether they are employees or contractors, South Africans, or foreign nationals.

In the Basic conditions of employment Act, and in the labour relations acts, it states domestic workers may not be made to:

  • Work more than 45 hours a week.
  • Work more than nine hours per day for a five-day work week
  • Work more than eight hours a day for a six-day work week.

Skills Development For Domestic Workers

Domestic work is an increasingly diverse sector with a varied and globalized workforce that is often viewed to be occupied by individuals who are unskilled and uneducated.

Recently, many domestic workers and unions have called out to organisations to assist with setting up skills development programmes for domestic workers so that they can do something extra to increase their salaries.

Seeing a huge need for a skills development and training facility for workers in the industry, the Domestic Workers Association of Zimbabwe established the “Domestic Workers Centre”

A facility that offers skills development and training in domestic work to domestic workers living and working in and outside of the country.

Madovi says the lack of access to certain skills and knowledge required in this industry poses a great challenge, as unskilled workers, don’t have much say with regards to salary negotiations that are aligned with their living conditions and basic needs.  

The organisation uses WhatsApp as its main communication platform where it assists close to two thousand domestic workers across Zimbabwe, South Africa, and Botswana.

“Apart from offering training in housekeeping, gardening, cooking, and baking it is also a safe space for domestic workers to come together and interact and share ideas and vent.”

The organisation also provides online training, where they host several discussions, discussing general topics, issues affecting domestic work, advocacy issues and with labour laws.

Madovi says that the skills development training has already assisted many workers in finding employment and had also encouraged domestic workers to branch out and seek other employment opportunities that would be beneficial and bring in an extra income and ultimately better their standard of living.

The Domestic Workers Association of Zimbabwe (DWAZ) is a membership-based network of Zimbabwean domestic workers in Zimbabwe and outside. It was founded in August 2017 and has members in Botswana, South Africa, and Zimbabwe respectively.

Wellington Madovi has a Honours Degree at the Midlands State University. He currently fulfils the role as Programs Manager at the Domestic Workers Association of Zimbabwe. He's enthusiastic about his work and passionate about fair recruitment practices in all spheres and industries.

 

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