What to Pay a Domestic Worker in Johannesburg

Nigel Branken lives in Johannesburg in South Africa and employs a domestic worker. In a blog post, he explains how he came to pay this woman a living wage:

“I realised that I had been setting wages based on norms of what others paid and not on what was right. I realised that the minimum wage to be paid should not be less than what is required to live. As I reflected on this, I recalled many times asking myself the question ‘How does she live on this?’, but never truly seeking an answer to that question. This led me to the damning conclusion that I had been exploiting my domestic worker.”

He looked to the bible (Nigel Branken is also a Christian) to see what was “needed to live,” and found that the wages he paid any employee must provide for five basic areas:

1. food (“feed the hungry”)
2. shelter (“provide the poor wanderer with shelter”)
3. clothing (“clothe the naked”)
4. basic needs (“satisfy the needs of the oppressed”)
5. things that will break the cycle of poverty (“untie the cords of the yolk”)

NUMBER FIVE! In his mind, that’s things like savings and education. Wonderful. He details how he came to settle on his new pay scale; it included going shopping with his domestic worker for her groceries so he could be sure to pay her enough to buy nutritious food for her family, not just enough to buy starches. Average pay for domestic workers in South Africa is R2000 ($195). Branken was paying his worker R3500 ($339.88). After his revelation and research and conversations with his employee, he discovered that the minimum household income to cover the five basic areas would be R10000 ($971). Since her husband worked as well, he raised her pay to half that: R5000 ($485).

Nigel Branken is kiind of amazing, obviously. Also: he and wife and six children chose to leave their comfortable middle-class life and move to a slum in Johannesburg so they’re also totally insane, but in a good way. They have a blog and there’s a lot of god stuff but a lot of other stuff, too. This post by Trish about a blind refugee friend who has lost three babies is incredible. Read this post in which Nigel and his family washing the feet of homeless men and then also this post about Nigel’s wife Trish’s horrible experience of giving birth in the government hospital (the family has decided to use the resources of the community and not opt for private care). And here is one about the time that Nigel talked to a man who was on a ledge about to jump.

This article about the family by Jessica Eaton in the Daily Maverick is quite good and gives a lot of insight into why they are living how they are living.

pic of nigel branken via



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