What nurses, teachers and lawyers earn right now – and how much more government is offering

South African public servants, which encompass a large variety of job positions – from nurses to engineers – are currently in a negotiation deadlock with the government over their salary increases for 2018/19 and beyond.

Unions representing civil servants put forward their wage demands in October 2017, but a number of political events – including the ANC elective conference, the election of Cyril Ramaphosa as president and the subsequent cabinet reshuffle – have thrown the negotiations into disarray.

Salary increases for public workers were supposed to increase from 1 April 2018, in line with the start of the new financial year.

However, the urgent mandate from the new government – to cut down on government spending and specifically to clamp down on the ballooning government wage bill – has forced the department of public service and administration to go tough on negotiations with the unions.

South Africa’s government wage bill is currently the biggest item in the budget, accounting for over a third of the total.

According to the unions representing the public servants – the Public Service Association (PSA) and the Public Service Co-ordinating Bargaining Council (PSCBC) – the deadlock with government has now reached the point that workers are planning to go on a national strike.

In a statement published on Monday (7 May), the PSA said that it has given the government until the 14th of May to meet its demands.

“Should an agreement not be reached by the said date, the PSA will request a certificate of non-resolution and members will be balloted for strike action,” it said.

Demand and offer

The unions are demanding a CPI-based increase of CPI+3% for the lowest-paid workers and CPI+2% for the mid-level earners. They are also seeking an annual review, rather than a three-year commitment. On this front, the government is willing to go with a two-year agreement.

According to the PSA, government’s latest offer is:

  • 7.0% for lowest level workers (levels 1 to 7);
  • 6.5% for mid-level workers (levels 8 to 10);
  • 6.0% for top-level workers (levels 11 to 12).

For next year and beyond, however, the offer from government is much lower:

  • For 2020/21 – an average of projected CPI+0.5% (CPI to CPI+1.0% depending on level)

At current rates, government’s offer for 2018/2019 meets the demand. CPI is around 4%, and the demand from unions would be between 6% and 7%, in-line with the offer. The wage negotiations on other demands (housing and leave issues) are still under consideration.

How it will impact salaries

BusinessTech looked at how some state jobs will be impacted by the increases for this year, using an average estimated increase of 6.5%.

Based on the 2017/18 salaries offered (from the previous, finalised salary scales), we’re able to estimate how much public servants will get paid if their demands are met. The salaries below are the bottom to top ranges, based on full-time employment. Figures have been rounded.

2017/18 salaries are from the PSCBC.


Job 2017 Salary 2018 Salary
Nurses R150 800 – R431 200 R160 600 – R459 200
Pharmacist R308 700 – R1.35 million R328 800 – R1.44 million
Psychologists R514 500 – R1.57 million R547 900 – R1.67 million
Dentists R205 650 – R1.0 million R219 000 – R1.07 million
Medical specialists R991 900 – R2.25 million R1.05 million – R2.4 million
Dental specialists R991 900 – R1.69 million R1.05 million – R1.8 million

Teachers and community workers

Job 2017 Salary 2018 Salary
Teachers (general) R108 500 – R932 900 R115 500 – R993 500
Educational psychologists R281 100 – R1.2 million R299 400 – R1.28 million
Social workers R226 700 – R635 000 R241 400 – R676 200


Job 2017 Salary 2018 Salary
Senior state law advisors R435 400 – R1.75 million R463 700 – R1.86 million
Estate controller R174 600 – R420 900 R185 900 – R448 300

Other state salaries

Here are a few salary ranges for state employees in different fields:

Job 2017 Salary 2018 Salary
Artisans R109 900 – R552 900 R117 000 – R588 800
Environmental officers R240 000 – R1.07 million R255 600 – R1.14 million
Architects R475 800 – R1.5 million R506 700 – R1.6 million
Engineers R549 600 – R1.97 million R585 300 – R2.1 million
Construction Managers R549 600 – R1.77 million R585 300 – R1.89 million
Scientists R475 800 – R1.6 million R506 700 – R1.7 million

Read: What nurses, teachers and police officers earn in South Africa

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What nurses, teachers and lawyers earn right now – and how much more government is offering