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Domestic workers clean on their own terms

Jul 01 2016 18:52

Cape Town - There are more than 1.2-million registered cleaners in South Africa, with roughly one in five women in the country currently working as domestics.

Ranked against a 26% unemployment rate, employed cleaners do not register as the most poverty-stricken group - yet, few would claim that a monthly take-home of around R2 230 constitutes a living wage.

“Despite institutionalised minimum wage laws since 2002, around 60% of domestic workers in the country continue to earn below that. Even when minimum wage is adhered to, it barely stretches to cover accommodation, nutritional food, and transport costs – let alone medical care and education. Cleaners and their children are trapped in a cycle of poverty,” says Aisha Pandor, founder of SweepSouth, an on-demand cleaning service.

"Devising practical and sustainable solutions is a challenge. One that has spurred the rapid growth of on-demand services. By tapping into new markets and empowering cleaners to take on multiple or supplementary jobs, we are facilitating the employment of more people, in far less time, at a higher wage.”

Launched in 2014, SweepSouth has completed over 50 000 jobs over the past year. The key attraction to cleaners is the flexibility it provides – they can control when they are active on the platform and independently manage the jobs they take on. The system takes geographic location into account, reducing time and money spent on transport.

From a consumer perspective, SweepSouth cuts out the process of finding, vetting and signing long-term contacts with cleaners. Pandor stresses that the product is not intended to replace salaried domestic work, rather it is targeting new markets such as young professionals with irregular cleaning requirements, holidaymakers, graduates and households that do not need a full time cleaner.

Charging a set rate of R38 per hour, which is only deducted once the client is satisfied with the job, SweepSouth is very open about financial matters. Cleaners receive 70-80% of the total cleaning fee, which is more than double the current minimum wage.

Training in tech literacy, financial management and client service is available to SweepSouth cleaners because, “upskilling your workforce is important for engagement, and it has economic and social benefits,” says Pandor.

Fourteen years ago, many predicted that a national minimum wage for domestic workers would result in higher rates of unemployment as potential employers would not be able to afford new rates.

“This has not been the case. The market for personal services is so vast in developing economies like South Africa, urbanisation provides a steady growth of employer and employee pools.”

In the past year, SweepSouth has created work opportunities for over 1 000 experienced cleaners in Johannesburg, Pretoria and Cape Town. Of those, the 71% were previously unemployed, with the remaining 29% citing under-employment as the reason they joined the platform.

jobs  |  entrepreneurs  |  labour  |  small business
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