Academic journal article SA Journal of Human Resource Management

The Effect of Labour Market Regulation on Domestic Workers in Orchards and Soshanguve, Pretoria

Academic journal article SA Journal of Human Resource Management

The Effect of Labour Market Regulation on Domestic Workers in Orchards and Soshanguve, Pretoria

Article excerpt

Introduction

In September 2000, there were roughly 1.025 million employees in the domestic worker sector in South Africa. This figure dropped to 977 000 employees in September 2003. This seems to correlate well with the enactment of minimum wage legislation in September 2002.

However, there has been a slight improvement in the figures. In 2007 just over a million (1.003 million) employees worked in this sector (Statistics South Africa, 2009, p. 15). The figure remained at about one million in 2010 (Department of Labour, 2010).

Data from the International Labour Organisation (2010a, p. 6) show that domestic work in developing countries makes up between 4% and 10% of total employment. In industrialised countries, this figure is much lower and ranges between 1% and 2.5%.1

Domestic work is one of the oldest occupations for women in South Africa and provides work for a large number of them. In many countries, domestic workers were 'particularly devoid of legal and social protection' and 'singularly subject to exploitation' (International Labour Organisation, 2010c, p. 12). International studies on attempts to protect domestic workers include studies in Brazil, India and Namibia (International Labour Organisation, 2010c, p. 14).

South Africa is no exception. In September 2002, the 'Sectoral Determination 7: Domestic Worker Sector' came into effect and granted formal labour market protection to South African domestic workers in the form of minimum wages, working hours and other conditions of employment (Department of Labour, 2002a). Despite these regulations, employers in the South African labour market generally ignore minimum wages. The biggest losers, because authorities do not enforce the regulations effectively, are security guards, farm workers, domestic helpers and some retail workers (Bhorat, Kanbur & Mayet, 2010). This calls for better monitoring of the compliance to, and effects of, these regulations. However, a lack of micro-level research in this field inhibits our understanding of the dynamics and behaviour in this labour market.

Background to the study

Previous research on the effects of the legislation includes a macro-study by Hertz (2004) and micro-studies by Bothma and Campher (2003) as well as Blaauw and Bothma (2010). The researchers conducted all of these micro-studies in Langenhoven Park, Bloemfontein, at different intervals. The results of these micro-studies give a broad picture of the changes that occurred in that specific area because the lawmakers had regulated the market.

The study of Bothma and Campher (2003) predicted a decrease in the already declining demand for domestic workers. Hertz's macro-study showed that the minimum wage legislation benefited domestic workers in terms of real wage increases and improved non-wage terms of employment (Hertz, 2004).

The macro-study by Hertz (2004) uses labour force surveys from September 2001 to September 2003. The data from these surveys include two waves before the effective date of the regulations and two thereafter. The surveys cover between 2400 and 3100 domestic workers per wave (Hertz, 2004, p. 2). This study also reported a significant reduction in the hours of work. The micro study of 2006, by Blaauw and Bothma (2010), confirmed this. They reported that employers are employing domestic workers on a part-time basis. Blaauw and Bothma (2010, p. 9) attributed this increase to the increased regulation of the sector. All studies reported a decrease in the employment levels of domestic workers.

Although the results of these studies are valuable for monitoring the compliance with, and effects of, these regulations, it leaves significant gaps in our understanding of the micro-economic effect of these regulations at a cross-regional level. Because of prevailing socioeconomic conditions, different areas may yield different results because of this legislation. We need cross-regional micro-studies to fill the gap in the current knowledge on this topic. …

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