South Africa’s take-home pay declined in July 2020, mirroring the movements in the economy, says BankservArica, following months of lockdown as part of the fight against Covid-19.
However, with government’s UIF relief payments still at play in the system, the data does not necessarily give the full picture, the group said, adding that the impact of the lockdown on employers and employees are only likely to be fully understood in the coming months.
In July 2020, the group recorded take-home pay at R13,887 on a nominal basis, 2.7% lower than R14,271 in June 2020. In real terms (adjusted for inflation), the average is R12,096, down 3.9% from June.
The BankservAfrica Take-home Pay Index (BTPI) has provided valuable information and insights not only of salary trends but also of the curiously high number of individuals not getting a paid a salary or wage throughout the lockdown period in South Africa, the group said.
“We have observed large declines in the number of salary and wage payments that are routed through the National Payments System for processing by BankservAfrica,” said Shergeran Naidoo, Head of Stakeholder Engagements: BankservAfrica.
“These generate estimations around the number of people receiving take-home pay. But the challenge for the BTPI is that there is no clear reason for the fewer payments.”
In July 2020, the number of take-home pay salaries fell by nearly 35%. This would suggest the impact of the Covid-19 lockdown in weakening the economy and the dire impact this has had on the private sector, BankservAfrica said.
However, the latest June and July economic data, including BankservAfrica’s Economic Transaction Index, points to an economy in a gradual recovery.
“Some of the declines in the BTPI comes off a very high base in July 2019 where income increased by 12.6% year-on-year and rose by 7% annually in June,” said Mike Schüssler, Chief Economist at economists.co.za.
“This follows from the South African national election in May where additional staff were employed in the run-up to the election and during the process. There was also the over time pay for police and the army in July and August.
“All of these contributed to an increase in the number of payments disbursed over that period. This high base resulted in larger than usual annual declines for the number of salaries and wages passing through payment distribution agents,” he said.
However, the 35% decline in July 2020 can also be attributed to the Covid-19 UIF TERS system pay-outs that carried their own unique set of challenges.
UIF payments do not get taxed and payroll systems are set up to deduct tax commitments, pension, medical aid, garnishee orders and the like from the funds it receives from firms to pay their employees their salaries.
“The part-UIF and part-salary payments that typified the UIF TERS programme, created disorder for payroll systems and these payments had to either be rewritten or circumvented to help employees receive the right amount, as dictated by the normal payments combined with the UIF Payments.
“As many UIF TERS payments were also delayed, this created even more confusion and problems,” Schüssler said.
Therefore, it is estimated that about 40% of all salary payments – or 1.2 million payments – were processed by BankservAfrica in July 2020.
“But as smaller companies do not use payroll agents, we estimate that only about 40% of the 1.2 million would have been impacted,” Naidoo said.
It is possible that because of UIF TERS, there was an estimated 480,000 reduction in salary payments via the traditional payroll stems, due to the payments being made via different means.
As monthly payments equalled only 2,406,000 payments, it seems that about 2.9 million people were paid out of a normal 3.3 million to 3.6 million normal estimated monthly payroll payments, represented in the BankservAfrica Take-home Pay Index for July 2020.
“The reduced number of payments may be the result of different reasons – some could be temporary, others could be for reasons that are not directly related to job losses,” Schüssler said.
“But all in all, we believe that the impact on employment will only be seen in the coming months as the UIF TERS payments come to an end, some interim laid-off workers are re-employed and get their income back, and the economy normalises to a certain degree.”
Indications are that many firms can operate and pay their own salaries again – although anecdotal evidence does point to some salary decreases, BankservAfrica said.
“A clearer picture of actual take-home pay and pensions will emerge in October and November, when the sizeable UIF payments stop and government’s additional SASSA’s relief payments cease,” said Schüssler.