Potential & Challenges To Domestic Workers' Cooperatives in South Africa: An ILO & SADSAWU Initiative
Policy, Strategy or Plan
EXPLORING DOMESTIC WORKERS’ COOPERATIVES IN SOUTH AFRICA
Domestic workers in South Africa amount to five per cent of the total South African workforce. Almost all (96 per cent) of the domestic workers are women and they account for almost 15 per cent of the total South African women’s workforce, making the sector the biggest employer of women in the country. Domestic workers face isolation and potential restrictions in movement. Many work informally, in particular migrant workers, without contracts and with little knowledge of the protection employment legislation offers them. While the ratification of the Domestic Workers Convention, 2011 (No. 189) by South African government has led to an upsurge of organizational activity among domestic workers, as well as by NGOs and other agencies capacities to respond to members’ needs requires strengthening.
In 2015, the ILO COOP commissioned a study to look at the viability of developing domestic workers’ cooperatives in South Africa based on the requests from SADSAWU. The findings of the report indicated that a number of possible opportunities exist for cooperatives of domestic workers (employment services; training; sewing; catering; frail care; child-care and hospitality). During a validation workshop, the discussion of the findings identified the need for domestic workers and their representative organizations to be the ones who are driving the process. Since then a community organizer who is experienced in helping set up and incubate domestic workers’ cooperatives has worked with SADSAWU, WIEGO, COSATU and others to develop an implementation strategy to guide the development of two pilot cooperatives of domestic workers. The implementation strategy report is currently under review by SADSAWU and other partners. Upon receiving their inputs, the ILO will work with them to move the initiative forward.