OPINION: "Domestic workers will soon become a handful of people only the elite can afford"
Some people simply cannot afford to pay more than the minimum wage for their domestic workers and nannies, explains one reader.
Yes, we'd all love to pay our domestic workers more than the minimum wage, but one mom writes in explaining that that's easier said than done when you're the sole breadwinner for your family. (iStock)

We always receive feedback from our readers about the minimum wage for domestic workers and nannies. And one mom just wrote in feeling rather conflicted saying, while she realises R4 000 per month is not much, some families simply can't afford to give more. She just got retrenched and her husband has been unemployed for a year. But she doesn't want her nanny to be unemployed either. "The choices the domestic workforce is going to have to make is most likely going to be work or don’t work," she says.

Here's her letter:

"I have to chip into this conversation, having just read your online article about domestic workers and minimum wage and having just had an argument with my nanny/cleaning lady today.

She gets R4 000 per month and has to spend 3 hours a week upstairs cleaning our “rented flatlet” once a week where our in-laws live ... She now feels she needs to get paid extra for it and was willing to lose her entire job over this ...

I work for a listed company that is busy retrenching 330 employees – I am one of them and face a precarious future. I am busy paying off as much debt as I can, cashing in investments, so I'm deciding whether to cut back her days or retrench her altogether, neither of which I want to do to her.

But at least 20-30% of the 330 employees in my company probably only earn/take home about R4 000 to R5 000 per month for their skilled labour contribution to the business – they have matric and tertiary education. They get basic packages of provident fund and UIF with optional medical aid contributions.

Most full-time domestic workers work for families who themselves work all day with kids at school 5 days a week, ending at any time from 12 noon to 5pm. Working parents have to be at work from 7.15 am and they themselves finish work at 5pm. Aside from some cleaning and washing, the main purpose of the nanny is to be at home whilst the children are home and parents are still working. Unless the house is ginormous and the family is extremely messy or over-pedantic in their expectations, the hours of work – whilst everyone is out of the home in the morning – cannot be that pressurised?

I consider myself affluent, in that I live in a good area, have a decent job and my child is at a nice school (not private) – but I pay off a bond, 2 cars and all associated living expenses. My husband has been unemployed for a year and we have absolutely struggled to come out on our month’s expenses.

Whilst it helps me to have a full-time nanny and she certainly keeps my house tidy and my child happy, my child is honestly spending most of the afternoon at home watching TV ... For only R39 extra per day/R845 per month, my child can be at school in aftercare – being cared for, fed and mentally and physically stimulated through the afternoon.

I totally get that R4 000 per month is not a lot of money and nett after transport and some basic expenses, R3 000 is probably the number. However, the choices the domestic workforce is going to have to make is most likely going to be work or don’t work. In my so-called-affluent circle everyone is cutting back their homecare to 2-3 days a week, if not only 1 and choosing the aftercare route, or cutting their own working hours down to be able to save on domestic costs. This does not bode well for the future of domestic workers who will soon become a handful of people only the elite can afford.

I find the wealthy housewives, who technically don’t need domestic workers as they don’t have to go to work, are quick to boast about how much they pay and how much everyone else should be paying. They are also giving unreasonable leave by the sounds of it – as they are not working, so it is not a concern for them. I get 15 days, I cannot give my domestic worker more than myself – who would look after my child?

Employment opportunities are scarce, we should try and keep everyone we can employed, with basic wages and working conditions set at a minimum."

– Anonymous

Disclaimer: The views of columnists published on Parent24 are their own and therefore do not necessarily represent the views of Parent24.

What are your thoughts about the minimum wage for domestic workers and nannies? What are you paying your nanny or domestic worker? Does she live in or out? Does it include transport? Do you have a contract and are you paying UIF on her behalf? Send us your comments to chatback@parent24.com and we may publish them anonymously. Please note that we unfortunately cannot offer legal advice.

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