Last updated on Apr 9th, 2015 at 11:00 am

Code for South Africa, a non-profit organisation created in 2013, is a company that aims to promote informed decision-making for social good through the use of data.

(Click here to access the Living Wage Calculator)

When it comes to South Africas domestic workers, many of whom are sole breadwinners, the non-profit organisation felt there was a disconnect between how homeowners set their wages, and the bare minimum needs of families on the ground.

The issue of domestic workers’ salaries is the elephant in the room in South Africa. There are around one million domestic workers in the country and approximately one million employers, said Code4SA director Adi Eyal.

When employers decide to hire, they usually ask their friends and neighbours about the going rate and then base the salary on that figure.

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But, even though someone is willing to work for a low figure, is it a fair wage?

We decided that a calculator allowing the employer to make their own assumptions about the cost of living would be a useful tool.

How does it work?

Using multiple variables which can be adjusted to your liking, the Living Wage calculator, aggregates a total monthly wage required for your domestic worker to support her household based on her familys specific circumstances.

Some of these adjustable variables include: the number of dependants in the household; transport costs; healthcare; housing; education, and four others, all of which contribute to calculating a fair wage for that household either per day, per week, or per month.

So for instance, in a household of three dependants, with a food budget of R27 a day per person (based on the consumer price index of 2014), and travel costs of R14 a day (based on an informal survey of domestic workers), the basic required pay for that household would come to R5 056 a month, or roughly R230 a day.

Were you to increase the number of dependants in that household from three to four, for example, the basic required pay then increases from R5 056 a month, to R6 306 a month, and so on.

This, as a bare minimum suggestion, is well above even the recommended minimum wage of R2 065.47 per month set by the South African Labour Department in December 2014 (for workers in a metropolitan area), a figure that does not take into account the needs specific to a given domestic workers life circumstances.

Shocking results

Often the results are shocking. Personally, we increased our housekeeper’s salary by R800 as a result of the calculator, Eyal continued.

Rather than telling yet another shocking story about low wages, we wanted people to calculate their own figures and understand how well they match up against their own assumptions.

This calculator represents the essence of that goal and [I] hope that it contributes to fairer wage negotiations in the domestic worker sector, added Eyal.