n South African Journal of Labour Relations - "We cannot discriminate against someone without an eye or a leg ... But I do look at obesity" : statistical discrimination and employers' recruitment strategies at housecleaning service companies in Johannesburg

Volume 40, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0379-8410
  • E-ISSN: 2520-3223



The landscape of paid domestic work has changed considerably in recent years with the growth in the number of housecleaning service companies in South Africa and elsewhere. Housecleaning service companies transform domestic work into a service economy where trained domestic workers render a professional cleaning service to clients. In South Africa, little is known about the factors that employers at housecleaning service companies take into consideration during the selection and recruitment process. A key feature of paid domestic work is the gender, class and race constructions of domestic workers, the vast majority of whom are women, usually women of colour, from low socio-economic backgrounds. Whether we are seeing a change in the demographic profile of domestic workers with the growth of housecleaning service companies remains unclear. This paper therefore focuses on the recruitment strategies of employers at selected housecleaning service companies in Johannesburg in an attempt to shed light on the challenges that jobseeking domestic workers may face. Open-ended interviews with managers revealed that gender, race, age, long-term unemployment, and technical and personal skills of job-seeking domestic workers have a strong impact on the recruitment process, while immigration status plays a somewhat reduced role. This paper concludes that housecleaning service companies have not changed the demographic profile of domestic workers in South Africa yet, and that paid domestic work is still predominantly a black woman's job.

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