Tag Archives: Economic inequality

Economic inequality and me

On Saturday, two things happened in my life that do not seem unusual at all. And yet, they highlight the enormous economic divide that exists in South Africa. What happened? I had lunch and my flat was cleaned.

Let’s start with the cleaning. I employ a domestic worker on an ad hoc basis – roughly every three weeks at the moment. She (I won’t name her for the sake of her privacy) spends about 6 hours making my home clean, neat and tidy, and in return I pay her R250.  This happened on Saturday.

While my flat was being cleaned, I went to lunch with my Dad. We had a very pleasant curry lunch with a few drinks at his current favourite curry place. I paid for the meal, which ended up costing R360.

Those two transactions – each of which seems so very normal to me – are in such massive contrast to each other that I’ve been thinking about them ever since. I literally paid more for lunch than another human being earns in a day.

Let’s put that into a bit more perspective. Assuming she works 6 days a week for R250, that’s a weekly income of R1500, or roughly R6000 per month. On a R6000 salary, the idea of going out for a lunch that costs R360 is ludicrous.

In my life, a R360 lunch for two is not particularly expensive. It could easily have been a fair amount more and it wouldn’t have bothered me particularly. Yet, for my employee, the lunch I had on Saturday would have been ridiculously extravagant. It would be as unlikely for her as driving a Porsche is for me.

The economic inequality that is visible here is startling. I know a person who is economically incapable of experiencing my lifestyle. I can’t even imagine trying to make ends meet on a R6000 salary, and I’m a single man with few responsibilities. The woman who works for me is a wife and a mother to two children.

How does such massive inequality exist? Why do I allow it? Do I have a choice? Is there anything I can do to change the situation?

I don’t know the answers to those questions, but I really would like to find out. Any comments or suggestions are welcome.