Recent exploits by the Government to introduce a minimum wage for the more than 46 000 domestic workers countrywide is plausible knowing that such a move comes when issues to do with income inequality are topping the agenda.
However more still needs to be done to make sure those who make a living from that trade have the most favourable employment conditions including medical aid and even pensions in future.
Namibia is one of the countries credited for having major riches in natural resources although the gap between the rich and poor continue to grow every day.
Ironically most of those who constitute the poor bracket of society emanate from the domestic workers group and have been ignored for longer than usual.
While this could be the first move in Namibia towards remedying domestic workers plight one has to be frank and admit that it probably took longer for Government to take the initiative.
It is also imperative that Government comes up with protective measures that would generally improve the working environment of these domestic workers.
Namibia has set their targets at achieving N$1 218 per month for domestic workers, or N$281, 90 weekly which is N$56, 21 a day or N$7, 02 an hour. Overtime, which would include Sundays and public holidays, would earn domestic workers N$10, 53 per hour.
The minimum wage will come into effect on April 1, 2015.
Namibia’s minimum wage for domestic workers is based on the recommendations of the Wages Commission on Domestic Workers from Debbie Budlender’s extensive report entitled ‘Wages and Conditions of Work of Domestic Workers in Namibia.
It is also important to note that Government is taking the lead in addressing pressing issues relating to the domestic workers who have to make do with some of the worst wages and difficult working conditions in the country.
Most of the domestic workers who are exposed to a rather difficult standard of living have to wake up in the wee hours of the day to jump into municipal buses from their bases in Katutura to their different working destinations in the affluent suburbs.
What is more peculiar about the plight of the domestic workers is that although they have to deal with constant insults and perhaps some of the most inhuman treatment from certain bosses they still have to go home with a meagre salary one that is difficult to make ends meet.
Recent statistics released by the Namibia Statistics Agency (NSA) show that an average family of four will need close to N$3000 per month to make ends meet. Although that figure is nowhere near living the luxury it only constitutes basic commodities and a few necessities
Namibia has some 46 000 domestic workers of which about 11 000 are employed in households on farms. These fall under collective wage agreements struck between the Agricultural.
Other significant changes the new minimum wage will bring to domestic worker remuneration include the exclusion of ‘in-kind’ contributions, restrictions on child domestic labour, introduction of transport allowances, leave, overtime, health and safety regulations as well as the right of domestic workers to join active unions.
A written contract between employee and employer will also become compulsory under the Wage Order.
The wage order will be supported by the full force of the law and be enforceable in the same manner as the basic conditions of employment contained in the Labour Act of 2007, which already covers domestic workers.
While Namibia is taking the first steps in rectifying the financial challenge faced by domestic workers other countries have moved to allocating their salaries for domestic workers in different tiers. South Africa uses different tiers to allocate salaries to domestic workers.
The minimum wage for domestic workers in South Africa increased, starting from 1 December 2013 and kept an upward trend driven by the Labour Minister in terms of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA).
As from 1 December to 30 November 2014, the minimum wages for South African domestic workers, who work more than 27 hours per week, were as follows:
• Area A [all urban areas with municipalities such as Buffalo City, City of Tshwane, Emalahleni, Jodaqhannesburg and others]: R9.63 hourly, R433.35 weekly (for a 45-hour week) and R 1 877.70 monthly (for a 45-hour week)
• Area B [includes those municipalities not included in Area A]: R8.30 hourly, R373.50 weekly (for a 45-hour week) and R1618.37 monthly (for a 45-hour week)
The minimum wages for domestic workers who work 27 hours per week or less are as follows:
• Area A: R11.27 hourly, R304.29 weekly (for a 27-hour week) and R1 318.48 monthly (for a 27-hour week)
• Area B: R9.80hourly, R264.60 weekly (for a 27-hour week and R1 146.51 monthly (for a 27-hour week)
Last year’s hourly rate for Area A was R8.95. The minimum rate in Area A is calculated as - minimum wage for the past period + consumer price index (CPI) + 1%.
Last year’s hourly rate for Area B was R7.65. The minimum rate in Area B is calculated as - minimum wage for the past period + CPI + 2%.