Outsourcing has not improved conditions for domestic workers in South Africa

Within South Africa, approximately one million people, predominantly women of African descent from marginalized backgrounds, are employed as domestic employees by the middle class.

Many have been employed full-time as domestic employees and reside in the homes that their employer has, typically in rooms that are a part of the backyard. For those who are live-in domestic employees, the work and personal life are frequently separated. They do not have the freedom and autonomy they need since they have to dedicate the majority of their energy to meeting the requirements of their employers.

Some are employed as full-time domestic employees but reside elsewhere. They rely primarily on the salary of their employers but also their goodwill during situations of need. The output of domestic workers who live out and perform are managed through their employer. They are not given much autonomy over their work and carry the added pressure of working to complete their work before resuming their home.

The majority of domestic employees are employed on a short-term or temporary basis in which they are working on different schedules of time and wages with other employers. This creates economic uncertainty and instability.

In the past few times, outsourced domestic cleaning services have increased, which has altered the structure of paid domestic tasks.

Domestic outsourcing services and the impact it has on domestic workers hasn’t been studied in depth within the South African context. To comprehend this phenomenon, I conducted my master’s as well as Ph.D. research on the development of outsourcing domestic cleaning services. The objective was to get more understanding of how outsourcing domestic cleaning companies work, the ways they affect domestic tasks, and what the expenses for domestic workers are.

My research has shown that outsourcing domestic cleaning companies are a major contributor to the gender, race, and class stereotypes about household work. The outsourcing of domestic cleaning services has not done enough to improve the status of the occupation, nor to improve the working conditions for domestic workers.

The issue with domestically paid work

In spite of various arrangements for employment, the relationship between the employer and domestic worker is typically individual and inequitable. If domestic workers are seen by employers to be “part of the family,” employers are able to offer or deprive support at their discretion. Employers can offer the gift of kindness, gifts, and other benefits to motivate workers, and favors from domestic employees, which can create stress in the relationship between employers and employees.

The other issue is the dehumanisation by domestic employees. Employers frequently refer to their domestic workers with absconding terms, yet are expecting to be addressed formal and in a respectful manner. Some employers view their domestic workers as children, thereby proving their inequities.

Thirdly, demeaning work conditions are a major factor in the low value that domestic jobs receive. Lack of contracts for employment, low wages, and a lack of social security increase the class, race, and gender discrimination in the occupation. Personality is a problem and contributes to the exploitation that are associated with domestic jobs.

When it comes to outsourcing services, the most significant characteristic of domestic cleaning services involves the conversion of a bipartite personal employer-domestic worker relation, encompassing all its entanglements into a triple relationship of employment between a client (former employer) and domestic worker, and a franchise manager or owner. The contact and dependence between the domestic worker and the client are minimized, and the interactions remain focused on their tasks. Clients pay to clean their rooms and are not obligated toward domestic workers. Managers take care of the emotional burden in (it’s presumed) taking charge of the health for domestic staff.

Another advantage is that work tasks, working hours and other responsibilities are controlled in order to formalize the domestic chores. Domestic cleaning companies attempt to improve the quality of their services. They typically use checklists for cleaning tasks, procedures or cleaning materials. Certain domestic workers are accompanied by a supervisor who oversees the work.

The third reason is that cleaning isn’t just performed professionally from a physical point of view but also on an emotional aesthetic one. Domestic workers must be professional and friendly when dealing with customers. The majority of domestic workers dress in clean uniforms and are they are transported by the company’s vehicles.

In highlighting the need to be professional in domestic tasks, Cleaning companies for domestic use claim to be professionals in the area of domestic work. As a result, domestic workers gain an image of a higher standing and are supposedly working in better conditions.

What are the prices for domestic workers who are employed by these companies for domestic service?

The cost

First, the domestic worker has little influence over the working relationship. In a centralized, rationally organized system, domestic workers are not given authority and control over the working process. They must follow the instructions regarding how to clean and when, and they are required to work with emotion by providing professional and friendly service to customers.


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