What you need to know about South Africa’s middle class

A new report by Standard Bank provides some insights into the consumer trends in South Africa – highlighting the stark income inequalities among the country’s people.

Using data from the Bureau of Market Research (BMR), Standard Bank highlights the general class system in the country, created largely by inequalities in wealth.

BMR puts the annual income classification of the South African consumer at:

Annual income Monthly income Classification
R0 – R11 600 R0 – R967 Lowest
R11 601 – R49 000 R968 – R4 083 Second lowest
R49 001 – R109 000 R4 084 – R9 083 Low emerging middle
R109 001 – R234 000 R9 084 – R19 500 Emerging middle
R234 001 – R378 000 R19 501 – R31 500 Lower middle
R378 001 – R783 000 R31 501 – R65 250 Upper middle
R783 001 – R1 693 000 R65 251 – R141 083 Upper income/Emerging affluent
R1 693 001+ R141 084+ Affluent

Around 53% of South Africa’s population are considered poor according to the income classifications.

This, BMR said, comprises 36% of the population that earn either no income or not more than R11,600 p.a. 17% fall into the second poorest category. These two groups only contribute 11.2% of income.

The middle class, is the next group, according to BMR, and comprises 18% of the working age population. However, the middle class generates the most income. They contribute a combined total income of 64.6%.

Read: How much money you need to be middle class in South Africa

While the two most affluent income groups only comprise 0.9% of the population, their income contribution is 22.6%.

“This highlights South Africa’s stark inequality but also the importance of the growing middle class, Standard Bank said.

Additional findings

  • In the lower middle income bracket, Around 40% of the employed have a tertiary education. In total 70% of the employed have a complete schooling history.
  • In the upper middle income segment, around 50% of the employed in this group have a tertiary education. This is a clear signal of how important education is to earn a high income. 60% of the employed in this income bracket is over the age of 45.
  • White individuals constitute close to 40% of the employed in this sample, Standard Bank said, adding that they only constitute 20% of the sample.
  • For the upper income/ emerging affluent income segment, around 90% of White people are employed in the 65+ category. “This could indicate a concentration of high skills amongst white individuals in this income group,” the bank said.
  • Over 63% of the sample have a higher education, the report said.
  • For the affluent income segment, the main source of income is salaries and wages (34%) followed strongly by investments (33%) and net profit (20%).
  • Close to 75% of the employed sample is over the age of 35 and around 20% lie between 50-54 years of age.

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What you need to know about South Africa’s middle class