This article presents the results of a prevalence survey carried out in 1994 to assess the socio-economic significance of waged farmwork in parts of the Eastern Transvaal (now Mpumalanga). The survey was designed to shed light on the question of how many rural households depend for their survival on the availability of wage employment opportunities for women on farms. The results support the view that economists and statisticians in South Africa have paid insufficient attention to the importance of unrecorded, or statistically ‘invisible’ agricultural wage employment to the rural population. In particular, the importance of women's work as waged farm labourers has not received the attention it deserves for policy purposes. Women's wages and working conditions on all types of farms are probably the critical determinants of the standard of living of many tens of thousands of households in Mhala and Mapulaneng, and of many millions of the poorest households in South Africa as a whole.