What South Africa’s richest 1% are worth

When it comes to “rich”, there is a magical number that is often quoted as the barrier between the “haves” and the “have it alls” – the top 1%.

Credit Suisse estimates that 71,000 South Africans are part of the top 1% of global wealth holders – and 50,000 of these individuals are dollar millionaires (R14 million).

The group’s data shows that the top 1% control 48.3% of the country’s total $671 billion wealth – about $287.2 billion.

This gives an average net worth of $1.15 million (R16 million) for all one-percenters.

Credit Suisse does not provide a minimum figure for someone to be considered a one-percenter in South Africa, but to be considered a one-percenter, globally, you would need a minimum net worth of $760,000 (R10.2 million).

In Africa, the minimum is significantly less at $52,618 (R732,000).

However, South Africa’s 50,000 dollar millionaires make up 0.16% of its adult population – meaning South Africa’s top 1% is around 310,000 people.

This is how South Africa’s wealth is distributed:

Net worth (rounded) % of population No. of adults
R14 million + 0.15% 50 000
R1.4 million – R14 million 2.9% 912 000
R140,000 – R1.4 million 24.3% 7 611 000
Less than R140,000 72.7% 22 784 000
Total 100.0%* 31 357 000

* Any difference due to rounding

According to Credit Suisse, South Africa’s middle and upper class accounts for 14.6% of the total adult population. Of this, the middle class comprises 13.7%, showing that approximately 10% of the the country’s 1% are actually considered (upper) middle class.

The lower boundary to South Africa’s middle class is a net worth of $22,000 (R306,160).

The middle class holds 38% of total wealth in the country ($255 billion), giving an average net worth of just $59,300 (R825,200).

One-percenters, on average, hold almost 20 times more wealth than the average middle class citizen.

What is a one-percenter’s salary?

Stats SA data on monthly income in South Africa in 2010 shows that anyone earning a salary higher than R22,840 per month or R280,000 (adjusted for inflation) would be in the top 5% of earners in the country.

According to information compiled by the Washington Post, based on data from Serbian economist Branko Milanovic, in South Africa you would have to clear R560,000 after tax to be considered top 1% in the country.

This equates to a pre-tax salary around R800,000 a year, or around R66,500 a month, according to Old Mutual tax calculations.

Milanovic’s data puts the global 1% barrier at pre-tax earnings of R375,000 a year.

More on wealth

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What South Africa’s richest 1% are worth