Declining Wages for Domestic Workers - January 2012

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By Saliem Patel

The Minister of Labour, Mildred Nelisiwe Oliphant, amended Sectoral Determination 7: Domestic Worker Sector (SD7) at the end of 2011. The amendments related to minimum wages only leaving all other conditions of work the same for the sector. 

The amendments to SD7 stipulate that from the 1 December 2011 to 30 November 2012 the minimum wage for domestic workers will be R1,625.70 per month in Area A (developed towns or municipalities) and R1,376.25 per month in Area B (all areas that fall outside of Area A). 

New Minimum Wage Figures

The minimum wage prior to this was R1,506.34 in Area A and R1,256.14 in Area B. The nominal increase of wages amounts to R119.36 per month in Area A and R120.11 in Area B or 8% and 9.6% respectively. This shows that the Department of Labour is attempting to grapple with the problem of low wages for domestic workers; however, it also shows that the attempt is meagre and may not amount to a real increase given that inflation is forecast to grow in 2012. 

Not Enough 

When domestic workers received an increase on 1 December 2010 this increase was quickly eroded by inflation. The increase received was 4.4% in Area A but inflation in October 2011 was already at 6% which means that domestic workers were 1.6% or R23.00 poorer than they were during 2010.

See Figures Below

  Wage%%%RandRand - Real
Year/sDW: WageDW: IncreaseDW: Increase InflationReal IncreaseReal WageIncr./Decr.
2010 1 443 102 7.6 4.3 3.3 1 385 44
2011 1 506 63 4.4 6 -1.6 1 420 -23
2012 1 626 119 7.9 6 1.9 1 535 29
2010 - 2012   183 12.7 13.1 -0.4 1 438 -5

* Inflation is estimated for 2012 at 6% and therefore inflation for period is also estimate.


The table above shows a forecast for 2012 showing that although domestic workers received a nominal rand increase every year since 2010 they would be R5.00 poorer towards the end of 2012 than they were in 2010. It shows that the increase that they received in 2010 and the increase they received with the latest amendment to the SD7 has not helped to overcome the loss they suffered during the past year. If inflation goes above 6% in the coming year their loss for the three year period would be worse.

Poor Get Poorer

How can the Department of Labour administer wages on the basis that the poor get poorer? Clearly there is not enough pressure on the government to raise people out of poverty even if the commitment is stated. Domestic workers will have to continue to organise, mobilise and build solidarity to ensure that rights are turned into reality. 

Saliem Patel is the Director of the Labour Research Service.

Read more

See the updated Minimum Wages for Domestic Workers and find out more about Domestic Workers and their Rights.