Domestic help – continued

One of the things I briefly mentioned in a previous post was the decision to have domestic help or not.  The decision process many people go through is complex and deserves its own post.

Under the apartheid government, non-whites faced limits on their education. Some only received training in physical labor or domestic work. This ensured that the white minority would be able to retain positions of power over the undereducated black majority. Even though apartheid ended in the 1990s, its impact can still be felt, especailly in education. While the government has taken some steps to improve the situation there is still a long way to go.

With a large portion of South Africa’s workforce undereducated and rampant government corruption, few international businesses are keen to expand or invest in South Africa. In spite of that South Africa is in much better shape than several other African nations. This leads to an influx of immigrants from northern neighbors that are looking for a better life. Mix those together and you can see why the unemployment rate is over 25%

The ultimate dilemma for us was: do we participate in a system where non-whites are still performing domestic work, or do you do the work yourself and take money away from someone that needs it?  While we are capable of cleaning up after ourselves we felt that providing someone with an income was the right decision. At the end of the day we can afford it, and it helps somone better provide for their family.

Until next time.

Domestic help

One thing that every expat to South Africa faces at one point is whether or not to get domestic help. There are several blog post on the moral dilemma of hiring domestic help. In the States, we only briefly considered having a maid. It was too expensive and a hassle to let a stranger in to clean up your mess.

In South Africa, it’s a different ballgame. Everyone I have met has a domestic worker. These ladies (and occasionally men) will spend nearly all day cleaning a house from top to bottom once a week. Compared to prices in the US or Europe it’s very affordable and helps someone less fortunate earn a living. So it’s a win/ win.

Naturally opening up your home to someone that you don’t know can be a little scary, and who wants a stranger washing and folding their underwear. We were lucky enough that our landlord had a relationship with R (our domestic lady). She had cleaned the house for years and cleaned our landlord’s parent’s house as well. #score!  or so we thought…

Over some time we began to get to know each other better. R is from Malawi, she has a young daughter, and one of her brothers is going to school for IT. I knew R had some availability so I put her in contact with a fellow American expat and friend.  This, in turn, led to R’s husband doing some work for them. R was very thankful for the recommendation and let me know how much she appreciated it. I was happy that I helping R out and her husband approached me for guidance on setting up a website for his painting business.

Then it happened… We noticed that the bowl we put our loose change in looked a little light. So we counted how much was there. Fast forward a few weeks and we are again missing not only some spare change but some British pounds we had as well. While we thought we could tolerate the change being missing (as it was out in the open), the pounds were tucked away in a folder on a bookshelf in the office.  At that point, we knew we had to cut ties and move on.

In the grand scheme of things, we estimate we lost less than $100.  Whereas R lost a recurring income and a slew of recommendations. We now have a new domestic worker, and I’m still washing my own drawers.

Until next time.