Code4SA tackles domestic workers' pay - TechCentral

Code4SA tackles domestic workers’ pay


A new tool created by open data company Code4SA can help you determine if you are paying your domestic worker enough, given the financial realities faced by your domestic worker’s household.

Code for South Africa, a nonprofit created in 2013, aims to promote informed decision-making for social good through the use of data.

When it comes to South Africa’s domestic workers, many of whom are sole breadwinners, the organisation felt there was a disconnect between how homeowners set their wages, and the bare minimum needs of families on the ground.

“The issue of domestic workers’ salaries is the elephant in the room in South Africa. There are around a million domestic workers in the country and approximately one million employers,” said Code4SA director Adi Eyal.

“When employers decide to hire, they usually ask their friends and neighbours about the ‘going rate’ and then base the salary on that figure.

“But, even though someone is willing to work for a low figure, is it a fair wage?

“We decided that a calculator allowing the employer to make their own assumptions about the cost of living would be a useful tool.”

How does it work?

Using multiple variables which can be adjusted to your liking, the Living Wage calculator, aggregates a total monthly wage required for your domestic worker to support her household based on her family’s specific circumstances.

Some of these adjustable variables include the number of dependants in the household, transport costs, health care, housing and education — all of which contribute to calculating a “fair wage” for that household, either per day, per week or per month.

So for instance, in a household of three dependants, with a food budget of R27/day per person (based on the consumer price index of 2014), and travel costs of R14/day (based on an informal survey of domestic workers), the basic required pay for that household would come to R5 056/month, or roughly R230/day.

Were you to increase the number of dependants in that household from three to four, for example, the basic required pay then increases to R6 306/month, and so on.

This, as a bare minimum suggestion, is well above even the recommended minimum wage of R2 065,47/month set by the department of labour in December 2014 (for workers in a metropolitan area), a figure that does not take into account the needs specific to a given domestic worker’s life circumstances.

“Often the results are shocking. Personally, we increased our housekeeper’s salary by R800 as a result of the calculator,” Eyal continued.

“Rather than telling yet another shocking story about low wages, we wanted people to calculate their own figures and understand how well they match up against their ‘own’ assumptions.

“This calculator represents the essence of that goal and I hope that it contributes to fairer wage negotiations in the domestic worker sector,” added Eyal.  — News24


  1. Cool idea. Why not add the link to the calculator?

    Oh and the link back to the News24 article does not work.

  2. AndrewWheelerDealer on

    Great idea. I think that domestics in the country are chronically underpaid.
    Does that mean you should consider paying someone with 5 kids more than you pay someone with no kids?
    As someone who is a manager in the corporate world, as well as having a domestic worker, I pay according to the problem that person solves – not what their costs are.
    Bottom line. If don’t want someone to leave, I must make it as attractive to them to stay…

  3. While I agree that domestic workers are underpaid, it is flawed to pay someone more because of how many dependents they have. The job market simply doesn’t work like that. A calculator that takes into account the type of work she does, and the level of responsibility, would be more useful. More responsibility = more pay. It surprises me that people who employ domestic workers to look after children often pay less than I do for straight forward cleaning.

  4. CharlieTango on

    As a middle income earner, R6,000 per month for a domestic worker is way out of my league, particularly with respect to the fact that while I pay taxes (and SARS has just increased them by 1%) I still have to pay for schooling, health services, security and the like (e.g. fuel levy, generator for electricity etc.). If government actually used our taxes to ensure a great public education system (with well paid and qualified teachers), a proper public health system (that attracted motivated nurses and doctors), an efficient police force (well trained and well paid) etc., then maybe I could afford the R6,000.

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