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Some domestic workers yet to benefit from minimum wage in Namibia

April 5, 2016

Contributors: Selma Ikela and Alvine Kapitako/New Era

Exactly one year since the minimum wage for domestic workers was introduced, some of domestic employees are yet to reap the fruits of the legally prescribed minimum wage.



Exactly one year since the minimum wage for domestic workers was introduced, some of domestic employees are yet to reap the fruits of the legally prescribed minimum wage.

Two domestic workers, who spoke to New Era yesterday on condition of anonymity, shared their experiences, which range from general contentment with their low salaries to complaints about poor working conditions, as they work long hours and are not granted any sick leave or annual leave by their employers.

A 42-year-old woman, who has worked as a domestic worker for two years now, said she works for two different people and is paid according to the days she works. “I work for a mother and her daughter. So, my days are divided accordingly to accommodate both of them,” said the worker, who did not want to reveal her identity.

She said she works for one employer on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays and is paid N$1 500 or N$1 600 a month for those days. Alternately on Tuesdays and Fridays she is paid N$160 per day and gets the money immediately. When she works on Saturdays she is paid N$100 for the day.

“I’m generally happy, because the pay is not bad. But, what is not good is the fact that I don’t get annual leave days, or even sick leave. When I want to go on leave I’m told not to go because my employers will be traveling,” she explained.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Labour, Industrial Relations and Employment Creation this week announced that as from last Friday, April 1, the new minimum monthly wage for domestic workers is N$1353.20. The previous minimum wage was N$1 218, which was introduced in April, last year.

“Last year I did not get anything from the introduced minimum wage. But for this year we will only know by Friday if they will comply with that amount,” said another woman who seemed to be in the dark about the increase in the minimum wage.

Namibian Domestic and Allied Workers Union (NDAWU) leader Nellie Kahua could not definitely say whether she is happy or not with the new minimum wage, because it is below the basic cost of living.

“We are not happy because we can’t afford the cost of living. Imagine if you rent a shack for N$1200, you are left with N$153.20. What are you going to do with that? With N$7 you can’t even afford bread nowadays”, she remarked.

She said although some employers have not been complying with the minimum wage the scenario is worse in rural areas. “I was in Kavango Region last year, domestic workers are getting N$600. When we spoke to them, some did not even know where to go,” said Kahua.

She said domestic workers have irregular working hours and often have to walk long distances to the nearest taxi rank to get transport home.

Kahua explained that despite the minimum wage for domestic workers having come into force, many employers do not comply, as they cannot afford to pay their employees that much.

Some employers feel they cannot afford the minimum wage, and as a result they reduce the working days and pay their employers according to the hourly rate, Kahua explained. The disadvantage, however, is that the employee cannot afford the cost of living.

She explained that it is difficult for people to leave their jobs of 20 years and hence they tend to settle for whatever they are paid.

Other complaints she received include unfair dismissals, because employers cannot afford the minimum wage. These employees are often dismissed without remuneration, despite having worked for many years worked for the employer.