By Barbara Hollands
RISING fuel and food costs are changing the face of the Eastern Cape household as many homeowners can no longer afford to employ domestic workers and gardeners.
As Statistics South Africa announced that for the first quarter of 2012 compared to the first quarter of 2011 a total of 46000 people in the province lost their jobs it has also emerged that employment in private households dropped by 45000 – or 32.4% – from 139000 to 94000 over the same period.
While many residents have suspected the trend, the figures have put a harsh light on just how desperate the situation has become for both homeowners and their employees.
Labour brokers, employers and domestic workers have laid the blame squarely on the escalating cost of living, particularly petrol increases, as the reason people are no longer able to afford to employ home help.
BC Labour Service staffer Debbie Krull said domestic workers who dropped off their CVs with the East London company revealed they were looking for jobs because their “madams” could not afford them anymore.
“A few have told me the issue is mainly about taxi fares. They say employers haven’t got the money to give them more because taxis have become so expensive. It’s killing a lot of jobs,” Krull said.
The owner of an East London domestic cleaning business who did not want to be named confirmed business had picked up in the past year.
“People say they don’t want the labour-related hassles of having a domestic worker and that a full-time domestic is a luxury these days.”
But while South African Domestic and Allied Workers Union president Hester Stephens said the job losses were “very sad”, she believed some employers “made excuses” when they said they could no longer afford to pay for help.
“The economy of the country would be in tatters if domestic workers decided to strike because South African employers can’t leave their children or their homes alone without us.”
This is a shortened version of an article that first appeared in the print edition of Weekend Post on Saturday May 12, 2012.