I know I joke about how I can’t live without my domestic worker, but of course I know I can.
It would be hard… With a family of 6 we do about 6 large (top loader) loads of washing a week. My 3 teens leave home at 6:30 every morning and are often not home before 5, my husband is gone 12 hours a day, so most of the work would fall to me, and I already work half day. But I have done it before and I could do it.
But for me employing someone in this country, where unemployment stands at 25%, is truly an act of social compassion. Having a job is a great source of dignity which is denied to 25% of our work eligible population. Is it any wonder we sit with so many of the problems we do?
As my budget continues to be challenged (several cost-of-living increases have led to further adjustments this month) it is very tempting to either retrench or reduce the hours of both my domestic worker and gardener. But on reflection, let me tell you, I cannot do it.
I cannot do it knowing that these people support extended families. I cannot do it knowing that these people will most likely not find other employment. I cannot do this knowing that just as I am facing hikes particularly in food costs, so too my employees are facing the very same hikes. I cannot do this to someone that I have employed for 12 years.
I always find it so sad that when the minimum wage is increased; many businesses respond by retrenching people. I do understand that this is sometimes truly unavoidable, but I also think people are too often regarded as commodities that can simply be dropped when we can no longer ‘afford’ them. Have all those businesses truly considered other cuts? Management lifestyle, advertising budgets, office space, etc?
So I must ask myself where else can I cut, and my heart says I would rather take my children out of their private school than cause two families to face hardship. Practically I’m not going to do that right now, instead I will probably run deeper into debt at this time hoping that the economy will improve, or that my income will improve as I actively look for other opportunities.
To drive this point home can I mention my dogs? We have 3 dogs (they were all rescued dogs) that cost me about R700/month in dog food. If I protect them against ticks that’s another expense. Luckily our vet visits are few and far between.
Should I at this point say, sorry pups, I can’t afford you, off you go to the pound? Yes, once again, I know this is sometimes unavoidable. I won’t do that, however. And these are animals, not people.
I implore you, as times get tough, if you employ people, or have any influence with those who do employ people; please make it your absolute last resort to retrench someone!