Are you paying your domestic worker a fair wage?

A new Living Wage Calculator from Code for South Africa (Code4SA) helps you determine your domestic worker’s wages, ensuring that you take into consideration their specific circumstances and expenses to arrive at a liveable amount.

Moneybags journalist Jessica Wood looks at the Living Wage Calculator, and how it can assist the plight for better wages for domestic workers.

Code4SA and the Living Wage Calculator

The calculator has been available since Tuesday 7 April, and has been set up in partnership with News24. Adi Eyal, founder of Code4SA, told Moneybags: “The calculator has been a pet project of ours that we have been developing in our spare time. It has been ready since last year but we wanted a media partner to launch it.”

According to Eyal, “The issue of domestic workers’ salaries is the elephant in the room in South Africa. There are around one million domestic workers in the country and approximately one million employers.”

The issues surrounding domestic workers’ wages came to a head in 2014 which resulted in Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant increasing domestic workers’ minimum wages in line with the new minimum wages legislation. *For more on what the minimum stipulated wages are per hour, week and month for domestic workers, scroll down below.

Eyal added: “According to our research… many domestic workers are paid below minimum wage. Even so, the minimum wage is extremely low. Even if you pay above the minimum wage, there is no guarantee that your domestic worker can live a dignified life with what money she earns.”

“Many people pay domestic workers according to the “going rate”. We wanted to experiment with a bottom up approach. How much does it cost to live? The calculator allows employers to explore the cost of living by manipulating a number of variables such as food, transport, housing, healthcare, schooling, [and so on]. Using their “own” assumptions, they come up with a figure that represents what it costs to survive.

“The calculator also takes into account the number of dependants in the house. We don’t suggest that salaries should be based on the number of children a domestic worker has but the calculator should rather inform what it costs your domestic worker to put food on the table.”

The calculator works out the cost of your domestic worker’s minimal needs based on nine assumptions, and tells you what percentage of that cost is covered by the wages you pay her.

The assumptions

  1. Household size: This looks at the number of people in your domestic worker’s household. The scale allows for between one and 20 people in the calculations.
  2. Food costs: This looks at the daily cost of food per person in the household and allows for between R5 and R100 to be spent per person.
  3. Transportation cost: The Living Wage calculator allows for transportation costs between R5 and R50, as the cost will depend on the distance travelled.
  4. Housing cost: This includes rent and utility costs, including electricity. The sliding scale allows you to select an amount between R0 and R1 500 per month.
  5. Healthcare cost: This looks at the reasonable monthly allowance for healthcare needs per person, and allows for a figure between R0 and R300.
  6. Education cost: The cost of sending a child to school, including stationary, uniform, textbooks and transportation, allows you to select the number of children, as well as an amount per child between R0 and R1 000.
  7. Communications cost: The cost of communication per person per month is calculated to be between R0 and R1 000 per person.
  8. Recreation cost: This looks at how much each person spends on entertainment, allowing you to select a figure between R0 and R1 000.
  9. Other costs: Miscellaneous costs, such as emergency expenses, clothing and household items, are not included in the other categories. This scale allows you to select between R0 and R1 000 per person per month for miscellaneous expenses.


Once the sliders on each of the scales has been moved to reflect the figures that you think accurately depict the costs of your domestic worker, the cost of minimal household needs will be calculated and appear at the top of the web page.

This block will also tell you what percentage of these living costs the wages you are currently paying will cover. You can adjust the top sliding scale (“How much do you pay your domestic worker?”) to see how much you should pay per day, week, or month to cover your domestic worker’s minimal household needs.

The minimum wage

Eyal pointed out: “The Basic Conditions of employment act stipulates minimum wages. If you pay less then you are contravening the law.”

The current minimum wage for a domestic worker, according to the Department of Labour, are divided into two categories. One category is for those domestic workers who work between 27 and 45 hours per week, and the other category for those who work 27 hours or less per week.

*Minimum wages for domestic workers who work more than 27 ordinary hours per week:

45 hour wages table

*Weekly and monthly rate for employees working a maximum of 45 ordinary hours per week.

Minimum wages for domestic workers who work 27 ordinary hours per week or less:

27 hour wages table

**Weekly and monthly rate for employees working a maximum of 27 ordinary hours per week.

For domestic workers who are not receiving a wage in accordance with these figures, Eyal suggested that the domestic worker contact the South African Domestic Service and Allied Workers Union (SADSAWU), who can assist the domestic worker in identifying what they options in terms of course of action are.

Eyal hopes that the Living Wage Calculator will help to draw attention to the low wages that domestic workers earn, and help to rectify the situation.

“Many pay low wages due to ignorance. Many believe that the cost of living doesn’t affect the poor. In fact it affects them even more. Since domestic workers spend up to 70% of their income on food, they are particularly susceptible to food inflation. Also transport constitutes a significant portion of their basket of goods (around 18% or so),” said Eyal.

He added: “Rather than telling yet another shocking story about low wages, we wanted people to calculate their own figures and understand how well they match up against their “own” assumptions.”

For more information on basic conditions of employment for your domestic worker, click here.