South Africa


FACTS AND FIGURES

South Africa is the first destination for African migrants and the main driver of such inflow is domestic work.1 Domestic work is more widespread in the Southern part than anywhere else in the continent, and South Africa is on top the list.2 The majority of domestic migrant workers reach to South Africa from neighbouring states: Lesotho, Malawi, Botswana, Eswatini, Namibia, Tanzania, Zambia, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe.3 Despite domestic labor being incredibly present in the whole continent, there is a lack of accurate data; experts estimate that millions of domestic workers are currently invisible to the statistics.4 According to data from 2010, 1.1 million domestic workers were employed by private households, most of them worked in the provinces of Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal and were immigrants. Of all the domestic workers in the country, women make up the three fourths and the sector employs 15.5% of all female workers in South Africa. 6

LEGAL FRAMEWORK

A salient issue in the domestic sector is lack of aapropriate legal coverage. 7 In African countries, 85% of domestic workers are regulated partly by the genral labor laws and partly by subordinate provisions or specific labor laws. 8 Even in presence of legal frameworks, lack of implementation and effective enforcement do represent a crucial shortfall. The South African Domestic and Services Allied Workers Union (SADSAWU) has implemented a strategy on a national level, and the country has ratified the ILO's Convention 189 however, protection is still inadequate in practice. 10 For instance, several migrants domestic workers cannot access healthcare services in case of illness and this is made worse by the spred of HIV/AIDS infection. 11 On a positive note, in 2003 domestic workers were included in the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF), even if they had to satisfy different requirements in order to access certain benefits.12

COMPLAINTS

The primary issue concerning domestic migrant sector is the invisibility characterizing the workers: numbers are far from accurate and this on one hand encourages policy-makers to overlook the sector, on the other it doesn't allow them to tailor evidence-based reformes.13

Another crucial problem that workers have put forth concerns the discrepancy between the existing legal framework and its actual implementation. Although many efforts are being made from the government, the union, and local organization, many workers still are not satisfied. Moreover, as much of the work occurs in an informal economic framework, it becomes even more difficult to guarantee workers protection from exploitment and access to state's benefits.14


Finally, activists call for the introduction of an intersectional lens in labor policy-making. They suggest as intersecting characteristics gender, migration status, race, age, religion and labour status. It is imortant to consider all such nuances in order to tackle any possible ground of workers' discrimination.15

FUTURE PROSPECTS

The fight of African domestic workers for fairer conditions is gradually gaining momentum. As their voice starts being heard, labor market institutions are intervening in order to tackle the inequalities and vulnerabilities of domestic workers and improve their protection.16

South Africa is currently part of a series of sub-regional tripartite consultations with other African countries as well as Regional Economic Communities (RECs) (e.g. SADC, EAC, IGAD, Morocco, Zimbabwe, and Tanzania); the aim is to develop labor policies with a particular attention to migrant workers' rights in specific sectors.17

RESOURCES

South African Domestic and Services Allied Workers Union (SADSAWU)

Labor union dedicated to domestic workers, it fights for the inclusion of DWs' rights and needs into the political agenda


Solidarity Center

The organization's scope includes several issues: labor migration, human rights, forced labor and trafficking, freedom of union, informal economy.

SOURCES

  1. ILO, 2021. Migrant domestic workers study for the Southern African region
  2. ILO, 2019. Labour Migration in Africa; ILO, 2013. Domestic Workers Across the World: Global and regional statistics and the extent of legal protection
  3. UNDESA, 2019. International migrant stock 2019
  4. ILO, 2013. Domestic Workers Across the World: Global and regional statistics and the extent of legal protection
  5. ILO, 2021. Migrant domestic workers study for the Southern African region
  6. Data: Statistics South Africa; OECD and ILO, 2018. How Immigrants Contribute to South Africa's Economy; ILO, 2013. Domestic Workers Across the World: Global and regional statistics and the extent of legal protection
  7. ILO, 2021. Migrant domestic workers study for the Southern African region
  8. Ibid.
  9. OECD and ILO, 2018. How Immigrants Contribute to South Africa's Economy
  10. Peberdy, S. and N. Dinat, 2005. Migration and Domestic Workers: Worlds of Work, Health and Mobility in Johannesburg, Southern African Migration Project
  11. ILO, 2021. Migrant domestic workers study for the Southern African region
  12. Ibid.
  13. Ibid.
  14. Ibid.
  15. ILO, 2019. A quantum leap for gender equality: for a better future of work for all
  16. ILO, 2021. Migrant domestic workers study for the Southern African region
  17. Ibid.