This is what the average worker gets paid in South Africa

 ·30 Mar 2021

Stats SA has published the latest Quarterly Employment Survey (QES) for Q4 2020 – ending December – showing what workers are getting paid across the various sectors in the country.

According to the data, the average monthly earnings paid to employees in the formal non-agricultural sector increased by 2.4% quarter-on-quarter, and were also higher than in the same time in 2019.

However, both figures were below inflation over the period.

Total gross earnings paid to employees increased by R60.3 billion (8.9%) from R680.6 billion in September 2020 to R740.9 billion in December 2020. Year-on-year, total gross earnings decreased by R36.1 billion (-4.6%) between December 2019 and December 2020.

Basic salary/wages paid to employees increased by R18.6 billion (3%) from R631.8 billion in September 2020 to R650.4 billion in December 2020. Year-on-year, this was down by R22.9 billion (-3.4%) between December 2019 and December 2020.

The average salary paid to employees in the formal sector was up marginally by 2.4% quarter on quarter to R23,133. This was up 3.1% from the same period in 2019.

Bonus and overtime paid to employees increased by R41.7 billion (85.4%) from R48.8 billion in September 2020 to R90.5 billion in December 2020. This was largely due to increases in the business services, trade, manufacturing, community services, transport, construction and electricity industries.

However, year-on-year, bonus and overtime payments decreased by R13.2 billion or (-12.7%) between December 2019 an December 2020.

The latest salary data from the BankservAfrica Take-home Pay Index shows that the average salary paid to employees, after tax, is R15,821.

In nominal terms, take-home pay increased to an average of R15,821 – an increase of 4.7% from February 2020. In real terms – taking inflation into account – pay was up 1.6% to R13,044.

Month on month, the figures were flat.

According to BankservAfrica, the reason for the growth in salaries was not really good news, as it was more a result of there being fewer people getting paid. Many of the low-pay transactions were removed from the system through job losses, boosting the average slightly.

This was also reflected in the QES data, where Stats SA recorded a loss of 600,000 people being employed in the country between 2019 and 2020.

The QES data reflects the number of people receiving salaries, and does not reflect employment/unemployment trends, which is covered by the Quarterly Labour Force Survey. The latest QLFS survey for Q4 shows that compared to the same period in 2019, there were 1.4 million more unemployed people in the country.

Explaining the discrepancy, Stats SA noted that the QES is establishment based (data from formal sector employers or businesses), and the QLFS is household-based (data from workers). Each survey has its strengths and limitations.

For example, the QES cannot provide information on the description of the employed e.g. their demographic profile, education level, hours of work etc, nor the unemployment levels and descriptors of the unemployed. It also does not include informal workers or the self-employed in its data.

The QLFS, meanwhile, doesn’t note where people may be working more than one job, and is open to misrepresentation through proxy responses.

It stressed that in the QES, persons who are paid by their employer for all or any part of the pay period are counted as employed, even if they were not actually at their jobs. Persons who are temporarily or permanently absent from their jobs and who are not being paid (i.e. do not receive salary/wages) are not counted as employed.

Read: This is the average take-home pay in South Africa right now

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