Employment data from Statistics South Africa reveals which workers in the country’s formal, non-agricultural sectors earn the highest average salaries.
Stats SA’s Quarterly Employment Survey data covers eight key industries or sectors in South Africa, which is split further into 20 sub-categories, mainly made up of various manufacturing sectors, as well as a split between government and non-government community, and social services.
The whole dataset covers earning estimates across 90 different job types in the formal, non-agricultural sector, giving an indication of which job types or sectors draw the highest monthly earnings.
The QES data is an enterprise-based survey that collects information from non-agricultural businesses and organisations from approximately 20,000 units.
The survey excludes agricultural workers, self-employed workers whose businesses are unincorporated, unpaid family workers, and private household workers among the employed. Employees working at more than one job and thus appearing on more than one payroll are counted separately for each appearance.
According to the data, formal workers earned a total of R746.8 billion in the three-month period ending September 2021, averaging R25,800 a month over the period.
In the broader sectors, those working in the electricity, gas, and water supply industry drew the highest salaries at R47,300 a month, followed by those working in government at R32,100.
The mining sector, the manufacturing of telecommunication equipment, and the manufacturing of petroleum and chemical products are the next highest paid, averaging around R30,000 a month.
Looking at more granular jobs data, Stats SA’s estimates point to workers involved in the manufacturing of coke oven products, petroleum refineries, and the processing of nuclear fuel as being the top earners in the country, with average earnings of R60,000 per month.
This is followed by activities auxiliary to financial intermediation at R58,100; electricity, gas, steam and water supply at R52,600; and computer and related activities at R47,100 a month.
On the opposite end of the list, those working in the broad textiles, clothing and leather sector tend to be the lowest average earners at R10,300 a month.
However, in the more jobs-specific data, workers in the hotel and restaurant service industry – such as waiters and hospitality staff – are the lowest earners at R7,550 a month. Given the period covered by the data – being during the Covid-19 pandemic when the hospitality sector was severely impacted – this may be more reflective of contemporary trends.
Over the period, the number of employed persons decreased in all industries with the exception of finance where employment increased by 138,000. The largest decrease in employment was recorded in the trade sector (-309,000), followed by community and social services (-210,000), construction and private households (-65,000 each).
The table below outlines the highest and lowest-paying job sectors in South Africa, based on the most recent earnings data as reported by Stats SA. The industry segments are described as follows:
- Mining includes mining and quarrying
- Manufacturing includes food and beverages, furniture, textiles, wood, printing and publishing, petroleum and chemicals, non-metals and mineral products, electrical, medical and technology-related apparatus, and transport equipment
- Electricity includes gas and water supply
- Trade includes wholesale, retail, motor, hotel and restaurants
- Transport includes freight, storage and postal communication
- Business services include financial intermediation, banking, insurance and real estate
- Community includes social and personal services, split among government and non-government entities.