The average take-home salary in South Africa during lockdown

 ·27 May 2020

The BankservAfrica Take-home Pay Index (BTPI) showed a slight pick-up in April as the majority of employees continued to receive their monthly incomes – however casual and weekly workers were most affected by the Covid-19 lockdown as the number of wages paid declined significantly.

“The real average South African take-home pay decreased by 1.1% in April,” said Shergeran Naidoo, head of stakeholder engagements at BankservAfrica. This comes off a high base from April 2019 when the National Elections saw an increase in the number of employed peoples’ salaries.

The nominal take-home pay was recorded at R15,701 (up 3.1% year on year), but real take-home pay was R13,895 (down 1.1% year on year). Month on month, nominal and real pay was down 2.8% and 1.0%, respectively.

The small average decline, however, hides the massive underlying change in the make-up of the workforce during April’s Covid-19 nationwide lockdown, Naidoo said.

“The total real take-home payment increased by only 0.7% despite very low inflation. While this was unexpected, it does show how larger employers and government are keeping employees paid with help from the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF),” said Mike Schüssler, chief economist at

A closer look at BankservAfrica’s salary data range suggests that salaried employees have been able to stay in their jobs as the numbers were slightly up compared to 2019.

“In April, monthly paid salaried staff received 6.1% more in the bank on a year-on-year basis. By contrast, the average monthly paid casual worker’s salary declined by 0.6% while weekly wages slipped by 5.2%,” said Naidoo.

Although the index captures mainly large and medium sized employers, public service and state-owned entities, BankservAfrica said it can determine the overall trend of the three types of employees that reveals the impact of the Covid-19 lockdown on the different salary ranges.

“Our data shows that the number of paid casual workers were down by 18.5% and weekly workers by 8.4% in Apri,” Naidoo said.

According to the BTPI data, more monthly type payments took place via the South African National Payment System in April 2020.

This may be due to the UIF Covid-19 Temporary Employee Relief Scheme (TERS) payouts being made available only monthly. It also shows employees not getting some sort of income were casual and weekly. However, some were paid by the UIF via the Covid-19 TERS programme.

The 6.1% annual increase and growth in the number of monthly payments may be due to some employers switching to monthly payments for weekly and casual workers to receive the UIF payouts.

The second Stats SA ‘Business impact survey of the Covid-19 pandemic in South Africa’ for the period 14-30 April 2020 also showed that most employers felt they could overcome a one month lockdown but a lengthier period would have far more serious repercussions on their ability to do business.

“The total salaries paid was 4.2% higher in nominal terms than a year ago which sounds low at first glance but due to lower inflation, the total real wages paid was 0.7% higher in April, indicating that the majority of firms could pay their employees a full salary,” says Naidoo. Some managed this by combining salaries with Covid-19 TERS payouts.

However, by the end of March, when lockdown began, the total real wages dropped.

“At this stage, UIF was unavailable to provide the assistance needed. So certainly the wages paid by larger employers and particularly those who receive monthly salaries have not been as impacted by the Covid-19 crisis in April. But this was more noticeable in March, at the start of the crisis,” said Schüssler.

The economy will remain weak for some time and the real damage is likely to be more evident in May and June, he said.

“Salary runs are often also planned and implemented in advance so most of the impact on monthly paid employees is likely to be in May. While take-home pay has been available to more than one would have believed, the reality is that consumers will be far more careful with their salaries as fear over job security builds,” Schüssler said.

Read: Government expands on workers who can claim for coronavirus financial relief

Show comments
Subscribe to our daily newsletter