The average salary in South Africa by industry

A new report by Stats SA provides employee and earnings data for eight major industries in South Africa – outlining how much each sector makes per employee versus how much the average employee gets paid.

According to Stats SA, the average monthly salary at the end of 2015 was R17,517 per month, including bonuses and overtime – while the country made R18,335 per month off the backs of the 8.99 million-strong workforce.

Across all industries covered by the stats group, gross earnings for 2015 totalled R1.98 trillion – split among all employees, this equates R220,000 for the year, or just over R18,300 per month.


Read: The average monthly salary in South Africa – before and after bonuses


‘Employees’ covered by Stats SA include all people employed by businesses, who received payment (in salaries; wages; commission, in addition to a retainer, salary or wage; piece rates; or payments in kind) for any part of the reference period.

It excludes independent contractors and consultants; working proprietors; sole and joint owners; employees paid on a commission basis where a retainer, salary or wage was not paid; and employees based in South Africa but paid from abroad, e.g. embassy employees.

The table below shows how many each industry employed as at December 2015, as well as the gross earnings for all four financial quarters as reported by Stats SA.

Industry No. of employees (‘000) Gross earnings, 2015 (Rm) Gross earnings per employee (R p/m) Average Salary (R p/m) Difference (R)
Electricity, gas and water supply 58 25 437 36 547 37 228 -681
Transport, storage and communication 435 119 632 22 918 21 323 +1 595
Community, social and personal services 2 532 641 958 21 128 20 702 +426
Financial, real estate and business 2 009 495 266 20 544 18 683 +1 861
Mining and quarrying 462 112 760 20 339 21 006 -667
Manufacturing 1 129 225 221 16 624 15 841 +783
Construction 471 79 414 14 051 13 186 +865
Wholesale and retail trade 1 896 278 717 12 250 11 759 +491
Total SA 8 992 1 978 408 18 335 17 517 +818

From this data one can determine, broadly, how much each industry makes per employee per month – and how this compares to the average salary paid to employees as reported by Stats SA.

What the data shows is that, on average, employees are generally paid in line with the value they add to an industry’s bottom line – however, dealing with averages can misrepresent the data.

Notably, data presented by researchers indicates that anywhere between 50% and 60% of South African workers earn below R3,000 a month – laying bare the stark inequalities present across all industries.

Recent data published by Analytico looking at median salaries across South Africa’s industries showed that the middle point for salaries in all industries barely surpass the proposed national minimum wage level of R3,500 per month.


Read: What unskilled workers in South Africa earn vs national minimum wage


Looking at the electricity, gas and water supply industry, as well as the mining and quarrying industry, there is an anomaly in that the average salary is higher than the average value added per employee.

This is indicative of either over-inflated salaries – or the industries being hit by a tough economic climate. The mining sector, in particular, has faced an extremely difficult environment in the past few years.

In contrast to this, the financial and communication industries pay the smallest margins, relative to the value added by employees, signifying the prosperity in those sectors.

A low median, with a much higher average, shows that top-earners take home significantly more than the broader workforce. Recent data published by Bloomberg showed that South Africa is the best place to be an executive, with CEOs earning as much as 500 times more than the average employee at their companies.


Read: How much South Africa’s top CEOs get paid vs the world

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The average salary in South Africa by industry