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Salary drop, fear of job loss cause mental health problems for domestic workers

Sweepsouth co-founder Aisha Pandor says the impact of the coronavirus pandemic has had a negative psychological impact on helpers across Africa.

SweepSouth, an online platform for booking, managing and paying for home cleaning services, recently conducted a study to see the impact of COVID-19 on domestic workers in Africa.

Sweepsouth co-founder Aisha Pandor developed the motives behind the study, especially expanding to other countries such as Nigeria and Kenya.

We started taking data out of South Africa four years ago and started thinking about how this relates to other countries, that domestic workers are active. We often think of domestic workers in an industry that is specific to South Africa and that even goes with the challenges that come with work, but we have found that, in fact, in other countries we have studied, unfortunately, their situation is even worse.

Aisha Pandor, co-founder – Sweepsouth

Pandor says the impact of the pandemic has had a negative psychological impact on helpers across Africa, but the positive part is that income and frequency of work have improved significantly compared to last year.

What is encouraging is to see relief measures in terms of how often people earn, although it is not yet at the level of 2019, as we have seen a drop in revenue as a result of the pandemic.

Aisha Pandor, co-founder – Sweepsouth

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Pandor added that falling wages, the inability to communicate with loved ones and the fear of losing their jobs have caused mental health problems for many domestic workers.

75% say they struggle with depression, while 25% struggle with anxiety.

Aisha Pandor, co-founder – Sweepsouth

The things that were said to help with mental health were things like going to church, outdoor activities, exercise and spending time with family, friends and the community, and you know that all these things that they mentioned were negatively affected by the pandemic.

Aisha Pandor, co-founder – Sweepsouth

Pandor says what really came out of the pandemic and on a larger scale is the need for open dialogue, compassion, understanding and non-condemnation.

What we recommend is that both the employer and the employee have an open conversation about what works for both parties and how it will work, taking into account what is right ethically and morally.

Aisha Pandor, co-founder – Sweepsouth

Pandor says a minority of domestic workers are reluctant to get the vaccine and that the government may need to work to educate people about the vaccination process.

The survey showed that 17% of South Africans do not want to be vaccinated and their numbers are declining in other countries by 5% in Kenya and 8% in Nigeria. I think this is worrying because they work with families and that leads to a broader and coordinated education strategy across the country, not to let employers train or tell assistants that if they are not vaccinated, their job is is endangered.

Aisha Pandor, co-founder – Sweepsouth

The study was on male and female helpers between the ages of 25 and 40.

Listen to the full interview below …


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