Domestic workers in Africa had some of the worst experiences during this time of COVID-19

The 2021 SweepSouth Report on Pay and Working Conditions for Domestic Workers across Africa is the first to be conducted across three countries, including Kenya, South Africa, and Nigeria. 

More than 7 000 respondents took part, making it the largest and most detailed survey of its kind, and offering the most comprehensive view to date of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on domestic workers across sub-Saharan Africa. 

The report takes an in-depth look at the conditions in the domestic work industry, in the context of significant economic hardships wrought by the pandemic. 

In Kenya and Nigeria, about 2 in 5 domestic workers lost their jobs due to the pandemic versus 1 in 5 in South Africa.

On a positive note, the survey revealed a clear correlation between better employment protections for domestic workers and their work conditions. While Kenya and South Africa’s protections specific to domestic workers lay down basic rights and principles in achieving decent work for them, Nigeria’s regulations are not as extensive.

Average number of days worked: Kenya (5); SA (4); Nigeria (6)

Work more than 10 hours a day: Kenya (13%); SA (3%); Nigeria (31%)

Work 7 days a week: Kenya (7%); SA (4%); Nigeria (33%) 

When it comes to basic living costs, the pandemic’s economic fallout has had a devastating effect on domestic workers’ livelihoods. While living costs are down, it’s likely due to them sacrificing variable-cost items like food to stretch their earnings, which strongly suggests a falling quality of life.

On average, domestic workers are earning KSH 8,522, while their monthly living costs are KSH 10,731, meaning they’re forced to take on debt or reduce spending costs on vital items to make ends meet every month. 

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Kenya finance findings at a glance 

  • 24% have personal savings or pension 
  • 42% of their wages is spent on rent, 40% on food, 22% on transport 
  • 64% are in debt 
  • 55% don’t make enough to be able to save

Another fascinating finding is the vaccine hesitancy and concern across all the countries, with South Africa showing the greatest hesitancy, despite 39% of respondents having experienced the loss of someone they know to COVID-19 and having comprehensive knowledge of the virus. 

“As we reflect on the impact of the pandemic, many of us would have predicted that the worst would be behind us a year later,” said SweepSouth CEO, Aisha Pandor. “However, we continue to see job losses and economic hardship for domestic workers and even though there are some encouraging signs, the general outlook is still grim.” 

Odipo Riaga
Managing Editor at KachTech Media
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