n South African Journal of Labour Relations - Domestic workers' lived realities of empowerment and dis-empowerment within the South African labour legislative context : two sides of the same "coin"

Volume 39, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 0379-8410
  • E-ISSN: 2520-3223



South Africa is heralded as a global ambassador for the rights of domestic workers. Empowerment, however, remains an elusive concept within the sector. Fear-based dis-empowerment still characterises the employment relationship, resulting in an absence of an employee voice. The dire need to survive renders this sector silent. This article explores the role that legislative awareness can play in the everyday lives of domestic workers. By means of a post-positive, forward looking positive psychological and phenomenological research design the researchers sought to access the voiced experiences of domestic workers within their employment context. Consequently, purposive, respondent-driven self sampling knowledgeable participants were recruited. In-depth interviewing generated the data. The distinct voice of each participant was noted during an open inductive approach to data analysis. Findings indicated that empowerment was an unknown construct for all participants. They lacked the confidence to engage their employers on employment issues. Nevertheless, domestic workers should embrace ownership and endeavour to empower themselves. This would sanction their right to assert their expectations of employment standards with confidence and use the judicial system to bring about compliant actions. The article concludes with the notion that legislative awareness could result in empowered actions though informed employee voices.

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