How much money you can expect to earn in your first job in South Africa

A new salary benchmark survey by recruitment specialist Giraffe shows what junior employees can expect to earn when starting out in their new jobs.

Giraffe’s data indicates that average salaries in South Africa are far lower than government-supplied data implies. While Stats SA has the average monthly salary in the country at around R21,000 per month, the recruitment group’s data shows this is significantly lower at R6,400 per month.

Stats SA’s data covers the entire workforce of 16.3 million people, while the Giraffe survey is mainly concentrated on youth employment, where 87% of its sample are aged 18 to 35.

Thus the Giraffe data is a better gauge for junior- to mid-level employees, rather than the South African workforce as a whole.

The figures are based on analysis of close to one million medium-skilled candidates in Giraffe’s data base, and reflects an accurate representation of salaries for junior employees in South Africa across industries, roles, and education level.

State of wages in South Africa

South Africa for the very first time introduced a national minimum wage (NMW) in January. With some exceptions, the NMW was set at R20 per hour or approximately R3,500 per month, depending on the number of hours worked.

According to Giraffe, “the working poor” in South Africa have household incomes of R4,125 per month, while a “living wage” for an individual in the country in R6,570 per month. This is the wage where employees can move out of poverty and live with dignity, the group said.

“Our analysis shows that average monthly salary in South Africa is R6,400, 29% of employees earn below minimum wage, 45% are living poor and 70% earn below the living wage,” it said.

What jobs pay the best for juniors

The table below outlines the best and worst paying junior positions across 25 different job categories used by Giraffe. It also includes the industries that pay the highest averages for each job type.

Job Average Salary Highest paying sector Average salary
Manager R7 700 Hotel R9 200
Welder R6 600 Construction R7 300
Supervisor R5 900 Call Centre R9 600
Call Centre R5 700 Security R8 900
Nurse R5 500 Healthcare R5 500
IT R5 300 Telecoms R5 200
Accounts/Bookkeeper R5 200 Manufacturing/Retail R6 300
Forklift Driver R4 800 Transport R5 000
Customer Service R4 700 Banking R7 400
Salesperson/Promoter R4 700 Transport R8 000
Machine Operator R4 600 Construction R5 200
Admin/Clerk R4 500 Banking R7 100
Data Capture R4 500 Banking R6 900
Driver R4 500 Construction R4 800
Receiving/Dispatch/Stock Control R4 400 Transport R5 200
Receptionist/PA R4 300 Security R5 300
Security Guard R3 900 Security R4 100
Barista R3 600 Restaurant R3 600
Cashier R3 100 Banking R6 600
Shop Assistant R3 100 Advertising/Retail R3 300
Butcher R3 000 Retail R3 100
Cook/Chef/Griller R3 000 Hotel R3 800
Picker/Packer R2 800 Transport R3 500
Waiter R2 800 Hotel R3 100
Cleaner R2 500 Transport R3 200
Average R4 300

Salary growth

The Giraffe data also shows the earning potential across different jobs. Someone with IT skills may start out earning R5,300 a month as a junior, but can see this grow to R19,200 a month as they go into more senior roles.

This growth can also be seen in other skilled professions, like accountants, supervisors and welders, etc.

In more menial jobs, like cleaners, picker’s/packers and cashiers, the jump in pay from junior to senior is less pronounced.

The graph below outlines the job types with the best average wage growth prospects, according to Giraffe.

Read: Rent vs salary in South Africa’s biggest cities

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How much money you can expect to earn in your first job in South Africa