How many dependants do you really have?

I’ve been mulling over this topic for a while, but haven’t managed to get around to blogging about it.

When you get a form that asks how many dependants you have, you’re generally expected to fill in the number of children you have… not right?

Well, I don’t think that’s entirely accurate.

Just think about it, it’s not just your kids that are reliant on your income for survival, is it? Well, it’s definitely not in our case.

To start, our income has to pay for our living expenses including housing and food for ourselves and our children.  So that’s 4 people.  And that’s all we normally think about when we calculate things.  But there’s a load missing from this equation.

We have a full-time domestic working in our house, and she’s the breadwinner in her family (well apart from her one son that now shares the rent with her) and she has 5 dependants… one useless husband who hasn’t worked in 7 years, 2 sons (one of which is now working and the other one is still at school) and one grandson.  In addition, I know that some months she sometimes has to give money to her grandson’s mother who often ends up in shelters because of her circumstances.  So that’s another 6 that we provide for.

Then there’s our gardener who only works for us on Saturdays, so the money we pay him isn’t his sole income, and I know he lives on his own, yet I also know that he sends money home to support family there.

Then there’s Lance’s mom who we also support.

So, our household income actually has to provide for 12 people on a good month.

That’s a lot! But I also know that that’s not unusual, and it’s also not something that we normally think about.

Have you ever worked it out for your household?  How many people do you support directly without monthly donations etc?  I’m assuming that this is a South African phenomenon, primarily because the average home in the ‘burbs has some kind of full-time or part-time home helper or domestic worker or gardeners in our employ.  But it would be interesting to hear from non-Saffers in the comments 😉

, , ,

9 Responses to How many dependants do you really have?

  1. Avril (Mom) June 23, 2011 at 10:36 pm #

    Hmm never thought of it that way either – and then it goes on ‘forever’ – until it starts decreasing again at our age – but that’s a lot of years in-between!

  2. Gavin June 23, 2011 at 11:03 pm #

    Hi Jeanette,
    A thought and responsibility that we also share…
    We have three boys ranging from 18 months to 15 years, a live-in gardener with his wife and 2yr boy and a domestic who worked for us even before we moved into our current home 6 years ago.
    When we bought our home, we could not get it in our heart to tell the gardener to go – so we ended up with an additional family to provide for. His wife is now a nanny to our 18month old “laatlammertjie” son. I know that a part of their salary also goes to support other family members in rural Venda. And then our domestic has to support her 5 children, 1 grandchild, a sister and a brother with her only income, provided by us.
    And then the economy also has had it’s effect on some more than others, …so when I got to hear of an old friend, a very talented freelance cinematographer & photographer without work – I could not but invite him into our household. At the moment we provide him with shelter & food and in return he helps with edits and assists at shoots. Hopefully soon he will be on his feet again.
    Now, that is quite a lot of people who depend on us, to provide them with a means of living. What a responsibility!! But then again, we are very blessed – to be in a position to be able to do this. Just sometimes it can feel a bit overwhelming.

  3. C June 24, 2011 at 7:58 am #

    Well the maid and the gardener are technically employees not dependants, each of them having their own dependants. Children are a natural dependant, your household staff are a choice that you make to have.

  4. cat@juggling act June 24, 2011 at 10:13 am #

    I get what you are saying – people dependant on your income for their survival. Well, we are 5, then there is Lucy and she has one daughter with a little grandsom she supports. And Rebecca that irons who has a son to support. That makes us 10!

  5. Angel June 24, 2011 at 3:31 pm #

    Very interesting angle.

  6. Natalie G. June 24, 2011 at 8:12 pm #

    Mmmm….interesting thought. Typing from my phone, so can’t reply fully. From a non-Saffer resident: we have hubby’s two kids, his ex that he pays support to, a cleaner and lawn service twice a month. Does the cleaner and lawn service count? If not, why is it any different than the Saffer situation? If yes, how is that any different to the other myriad of services we pay for every month – hair salon, restaurants etc? The word “dependent” generally evokes “legality”, “obligation” and “relationship” for me. So yes, all these people may be dependent (lower case “d”) on you, but are they truly your Dependants (upper case “D”)? That’s an important distinction in my mind. There is also the question of “degree of dependence”. Like Brian’s ex. She is definitely dependant on him/us for support, but only for a specific, limited amount. And she is definitely *not* his Dependent! He really struggled with this concept when they first divorced and we had to spend quite a bit of time defining this dependency. Perhaps there’s a difference between legal dependancy and dependency because you want to help, like Lance’s mom? Interesting question :-).

  7. Lovely Light June 24, 2011 at 9:59 pm #

    I recently moved to Cape Town from the US and grew up lower-middle class. We never had maids or gardeners. I, my estimation only the upper middle class to upper class would be the people to have maids and gardeners. We do not usually have them live on premises (probably unless we have 2+ extra bedrooms). I have had a hard time imagining having helpers- especially because I can’t work due to my visa status. Right now my life isn’t that busy, and we cannot afford anything extra- we are living paycheck to paycheck…not fun. I’m not sure if I will ever have home helpers…but at the same time I know that others in SA depend on it for work…
    Do you have any questions about what I’ve said?
    If you have time, follow our lives in SA at
    (I’m now a follower of you!)

  8. Michelle June 24, 2011 at 11:45 pm #

    Enjoy the luxury of having the paid help, if you lived in NZ you will JUST be working to afford it. Most house cleaners charge $17+ per hour, gardeners depending on experience $40+ per hour then there is childcare centres (very expensive) school holiday programmes, after school care etc.etc the cost goes on and on, so enjoy your luxury. The average New Zealander have to juggle everything without the extra help.

  9. Marcia (123 blog) June 25, 2011 at 11:28 pm #

    I put two on those forms for the twins as D earns his own salary so is not dependent on me 🙂


    By the way, you and I both better pray the weather is STUNNING for the party – I will not be able to bear this cold weather and nor can i handle lots of kids inside – fun times 🙂