If you belong to the sapa-inflicted group of Nigerians like most of us do — 63% of Nigerians, to be exact — you’ve probably never had to ask yourself, “How much should I pay my maid or driver?” Because you immediately know you’re unable to afford such services.

There have been many debates on the TL about how much is okay to pay blue-collar workers. But Nigerian Twitter can claim one thing, while reality says another. So I spoke to seven workers, and they shared what they really earn, as well as how much their earnings have grown over the years.

“My take-home salary doesn’t take me home”

— Sunday, 46, Personal driver

I’ve been a driver for about ten years. I turned to this career path when teaching at private schools stopped making sense. Imagine teaching a class on every subject, with the stress of forming lesson notes and exam questions, only to get ₦7,500 at the end of the month.

The father of one of my students complained about driving alone from Ekiti to Lagos every two weeks because of his job, and as a sharp man, I claimed I could do it, even though I’d never driven interstate. That’s how I got my first driving job in 2013. It was a three-day journey every two weeks. I had to wait with him in Lagos until he returned to Ekiti, and he paid me ₦10k a month. I did that for about three years before he finally moved to Lagos, and I got my current job driving a polytechnic staff member in 2017. I drive him around from 9 a.m. to 6 or 7 p.m. daily before going to my house. He paid me ₦15k at first. But in 2021, my wife gave birth to our third child, so I complained about money, and he increased it to ₦18k. 

The take-home salary doesn’t take me home at all. Most times, I’m in debt before I receive it. But my oga’s wife helps by giving me foodstuff and gifts for my children sometimes. I always say she’s the reason I’m still working here. I don’t know if I’ll ever retire or what I’d be doing if I’m not driving. Maybe I’d pay more attention to my farm, but many people farm in Ekiti. How much would I gain?

“I don’t know how much my salary is”

— Toyin, 21, Live-in nanny and maid

I work as a live-in nanny and housemaid for a couple with three children. I’ve been with them since they had their first child. I was 13 then, and had just finished JSS 2. 

My dad was in prison for allegedly selling stolen generators, and my mum was really sick, so our family friend advised her to send one of her five children (which turned out to be me) to work. I came to Osogbo and started caring for my bosses’ child and the house. They used to send my salary home to my parents. But when I turned 16, they put me in a part-time adult school so I could do GCE and said my salary would pay for it. I passed my GCE in 2021, but I’m still trying to gain admission for a national diploma. I hardly have time to read because of my responsibilities, but I’m glad my bosses want me to get educated, so I have hope for a better future.

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“I’m always owed”

— Iyabo, 38, Laundry woman

I wash clothes for a living. I’ve been doing this for about six years, and I get most of my jobs through referrals. My typical clients are female staff of the schools in my area, who hardly have time to wash their own clothes.

I do the bulk of my work during the weekend when they’re around. When I first started, I charged around ₦1k for two or three large heaps of clothes, but now, I charge ₦3k – ₦5k. In a good month, I wash for at least one person every weekend. They provide soap and water, and I just wash. It’s a good arrangement because I can use the rest of the week for my other hustle, which is selling cooked food. 

My major challenge with the laundry business is my clients always owe me. Sometimes, they’ll hold payment for three sets of washing and only pay at the end of the month. Some can even complain that the clothes aren’t clean just so they can reduce my money. And people are now buying washing machines. I’m not sure how long I’ll continue this job.

“I can’t charge more than ₦80k for a full-day wedding coverage”

— Chidi, 27, Photographer

I started photography as a hobby in 2012. I learnt it through my church’s skill acquisition program. They even gifted me a camera for being the best student. But when I lost my job during the pandemic, my brother suggested I make money from it.

So, I started taking passport photographs. I lived close to a polytechnic, so the students were my customers. I charged ₦300 for four passports and made like ₦5k a day. In 2021, I converted a small shop in front of my dad’s house into a mini studio and started offering photoshoots too.

Now, my main clientele are wedding couples, but omo, they can be so annoying. It’s difficult to charge more than ₦80k for a full-day coverage because I’m in Akure, and these people are cheap. After all the stress, they’ll still want you to send their pictures immediately after the wedding. Like it’s that easy.

“You have to fight to get paid a living wage”

— Mrs. Akinyemi, 39, Cleaner

I started cleaning homes and offices around 2018. My husband had just lost his job, and I had to support the home. I’ve seen things o. Apart from the fact that many people live like pigs, you have to fight to get paid a living wage.

The first gig I got was a monthly payment of ₦10k for cleaning the office thrice a week. They always struggled to provide the necessary cleaning supplies like mops. I’d use a rag and be on all fours just to clean the floor. Then the money hardly went anywhere. Once I received salary, I’d go to the market to buy garri and rice, and that’s what we’d survive on till the next month.

Now, I have two consistent cleaning jobs that pay me ₦20k and ₦35k. For both jobs, I clean three times a week. My finances are somewhat stable. Even though my husband has a job now, we have kids at the university, so I have to keep at it. 

“I feel cheated”

— Nifemi, 21, Printing assistant

I’ve been trying to get admission into the university since 2022, but between JAMB jamming me and the countless ASUU strikes, I decided to take up a printing assistant job at one of the cafe’s near me. It’s my first job.

My boss pays me ₦5k every month, and he said it was that low because students weren’t in school, and business was low. The strike was called off in October 2022, and business really picked up. Sometimes, he’d make ₦15k a day, yet he doesn’t want to increase my money. I feel cheated, but I can’t just sit at home without work or school.

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“I spend my income on medication”

— Peace, 35, Hairdresser

I’ve been making hair for more than a decade, and while I love being independent, it doesn’t really pay my bills. After getting my freedom from a three-year apprenticeship, I started my business and charged around ₦1k for braids with attachment.

It’s funny because ten years later, I’ve only increased it to ₦5k, but people still price it down. Sometimes, I make only ₦8k per week. Maybe it’s because I’m in Ado-Ekiti, but the money isn’t worth it. My neighbours don’t even like paying. They claim I shouldn’t collect money from “ara ile”. And I spend my income on medication for back pain all the time because I stand all day. I don’t have any other handiwork, so if I stop making hair, I don’t know what I’ll do.

Some responses have been translated from Yoruba to English and slightly edited for clarity.

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