Past research provided evidence of the negative effect that individual unemployment can have on subjective well-being. The persistent high levels of unemployment and poverty in South Africa have been well documented. Many people are forced into the informal economy, where they engage in a variety of survivalist activities such as day labouring. As no previous study has been conducted on the well-being of day labourers, the aim of this paper is to investigate the determinants of the well-being of South African day labourers. Objective and subjective functions are compared to determine the role of income and other variables in the well-being of day labourers. The determinants are categorised according to economic, comparison and attitudinal variables. The objective function uses income and the subjective function uses the binary measure of ‘experiencing a good week in terms of wages’ as dependent variables. The results showed that comparison variables are important determinants for the subjective measure of well-being, and attitudinal variables are important for the objective measure of well-being. The economic variables were important in both functions. The findings of this paper confirm other research findings showing that personal income is important for well-being in a poor community. The difference between these functions indicates that the subjective and objective measures of well-being both capture valuable characteristics of SWB in a poor community.