How much money you need to earn to be in the top 1 percent in South Africa

Credit Suisse has published its Global Wealth Report for 2018, showing the breakdown of wealth in South Africa, and what it takes to be a 1% earner.

According to the report, approximately 61,000 South Africans are part of the global 1%, representing a tiny fraction (0.2%) of the 35.434 million adults in the country.

South Africa has high levels of inequality when it comes to the distribution of wealth, with the country’s top 10% of wealth holders controlling 68% of the total $786 billion wealth (ie, 3.5 million people have $534.5 billion in wealth).

But this imbalanced distribution becomes more alarming the further it is broken down.

The top 5% control 57.8% of the wealth ($867 billion) – while the top 1%, controls 36.4% of the wealth ($546 billion).

Category Number of adults % of wealth Wealth in USD Average wealth per person ZAR
Top 10% 3.54 million 67.9% $534.5 billion $150 860 R2.1 million
Top 5% 1.77 million 57.8% $454.3 billion $256 660 R3.7 million
Top 1% 354 340 36.4% $286.1 billion $807 400 R11.6 million

Using this data, we can determine that anyone with net wealth totalling roughly $151,000 (R2.1 million) is easily within the top 10% richest people in the country – while the average one-percenter is worth $807,000 (R11.6 million).

While the breakdown provides a general idea of how wealth is distributed at the top, the reality is quite different.

The Top 10% average (R2.1 million) includes the one-percenters, who account for more than half the held wealth. Half of the top 10 percenters only account for R80.2 billion (an average of $45,300 or R660,000 per person) – meaning the barrier for entry into the ‘top earners’ list is lower than you think.

The graphic below breaks down the wealth spread further.

Category Number of adults % of wealth Wealth in USD Average wealth per person ZAR
Top 1% 354 340 36.4% $286.1 billion $807 400 R11.6 million
Top 5% (minus 1 percenters) 1.42 million 21.4% $168.2 billion $118 870 R1.7 million
Top 10% (minus 5 percenters) 1.77 million 10.2% $80.2 billion $45 311 R660 000
Rest of South Africa 31.9 million 32.0% $251.1 billion $7 886 R113 000

The middle class

Globally speaking, the middle class band of wealth is between $10,000 (R144,000) and $100,000 (R1.44 million) – in South Africa, approximately 33.1% of the adult population fall into this category, representing about 11.72 million adults.

The majority, however, are still below the $10,000 mark – 63.7% of the adult population (22.58 million adults) have a net worth below this level.


Read: This is how many dollar millionaires there are in South Africa – and how many are part of the world’s richest 1%

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How much money you need to earn to be in the top 1 percent in South Africa