Slow vaccine rollout threatens economic recovery of domestic worker sector

    By Luke Kannemeyer, Chief Operating Officer of SweepSouth

    The slow vaccine rollout in Africa threatens the prospect of an economic bounce-back benefitting domestic workers, who are among the worst affected by the economic fallout of the pandemic.

    This is particularly relevant considering their reliance on the income of their employer, and their frequent exploitation. This is also likely to put a roadblock on recent progress made to improve work conditions, pay and protection for domestic workers.

    According to a recent report by SweepSouth of more than 7 000 domestic workers across South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria, vaccine hesitancy came up as a concern across all the countries surveyed, with South Africa showing the greatest hesitancy. 

    Many of the domestic workers we polled in Kenya said they had experienced the loss of someone they know to COVID-19, and had comprehensive knowledge of COVID-19, which is probably why Kenyan respondents were more likely to get the vaccine. 

    In order to reach herd immunity for COVID-19, it is estimated that at least 70% of the population needs to be vaccinated. This won’t be possible if vaccine hesitancy rates are as high as reported, particularly in South Africa.

    The best answer on how to end this pandemic and restore livelihoods is in the rapid and widespread vaccination of each country’s population. We are already challenged through the disproportionate allocation of vaccines to developing economies and the logistics associated with their provision, and therefore cannot add an unwilling population to that mix.

    The ability to overcome the pandemic is largely predicated on the success of vaccination rollout efforts, so extensive effort should be made to combat misinformation and provide better vaccination education. 

    We firmly believe that in order to successfully achieve herd immunity for COVID-19, governments need to work with faith-based communities, educational institutions and civil society to educate the populace as to the nature of the COVID-19 vaccine, its safety and its efficacy. This should be paired with education dispelling the myths around vaccination and impose strong penalties on those spreading false information.

    The SweepSouth report is an annual study of the pay and working conditions of domestic workers that provides key insights into their current living conditions and mindsets. This year, the report’s reach was expanded to Kenya and Nigeria in order to create an even bigger picture of the domestic worker sector across countries.

    The majority of respondents to the survey were females, but no significant differences were observed between male and female respondents regarding their experience of COVID-19 and vaccination hesitancy. The only significant difference was observed in South Africa, where non-South African respondents were 12 percentage points less likely to want to be vaccinated.