Broadening horizons early on Saturday….

So…. one thing I’ve learned since coming to South Africa is that maids and other domestic workers are very common here. Most of my friends here have a domestic worker (or several), as well as most of their friends and families. Now I know some people back home in the US might raise an eyebrow at it, I realized it kinda makes sense.

South Africa struggles with a very present 30% unemployment rate (last I heard, but it’s pretty much stuck around 25-30% constantly), most of which is a largely low skilled group. Post Apartheid there was a large amount of skilled workers that left due to the “affirmative action” that is still in place. Basically, they give preference to people with a degree of “blackness”, as well as females and those with disabilities. They are allowed to say flat out in ads that the applicant MUST be black to be considered. I’ve also seen the opposite, where people state they will only hire whites. Only problem is, they do not take skill level as much into consideration. Many people just got fed up and left.

With the idea that it’s better to make up jobs and keep people off of the streets (in an effort to reduce the high crime rates out here) there have been many “bs” jobs created to allow more people to become employed. Think of your standard parking garage, for example. You drive in, press a button, and get a ticket. Most garages I’ve come across have a machine you later insert the ticket into BEFORE you leave to pay for the time you’ve been there. Then you get in your car and drive to the exit, where you would normally just put the ticket in another slot so the arm lifts to allow you out. Here, I commonly see some person standing (or leaning) against the spot where the slot is, so you hand the ticket to them and they put it in for you. Think about that. Someone is paid to just put the ticket in the machine. But, that person is employed and (logically) is kept off of the streets.

Back to the domestic workers. So, if it wasn’t so common to have domestic workers, there would be a lot of people that would otherwise be jobless due to lack of any other skills. Seeing how many people I personally know that have one,  I don’t want to even imagine how large that number would be.

My boyfriend has both a maid and a gardener. They only come by on Saturday, but he treats them well. They can make whatever food they want (though, sometimes go overboard with it) and he drives them both home afterwards so they can safely get in before it’s dark. This is more so for the maid than the gardener, because she lives in a a squatter camp, and apparently there are a lot of people being murdered after dark there. 



I took this particular shot of the maid’s (Martha) home when we dropped her off last week. Squatter camps like these are very common, and there are designated areas (typically rural) where people are allowed to set up a shack to live in for free. There is usually running water and electricity provided, so it’s not as barbaric as it might sound. I’ve also heard of people having normal appliances like a fridge or stove.

Not too long after I arrived in the country, I recall being told a story by my friends’ uncle about his own domestic worker (who also lived in a squatter camp). His workers’ daughter had a pretty well-paying job in the medical field. She still lived in a squatter camp with her mom and the rest of her family, because it was home to her. She even had a shack built to house her Porsche.

And, that’s another thing I’ve learned since here. Her situation is not unique. There are many that will choose to be around family over the luxury they can afford. Plus I guess it’s a bonus to live rent-free? My boyfriend’s gardener told me a couple of weeks ago how he and his family have this amazing property about two hours away…..but most times he’s working and living in a shack locally, and just sending the money back home. Another common scenario…..


I guess these are just examples in one belief I do have… isn’t everything, nor are material things.




About Sara Skinner

I'm a full time home-based professional eager to teach others that professional freedom is out there....just as long as you know to look for it. I also write about my life as a wife, superhero and stepmom.
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