This is how much money you need to be part of South Africa’s richest 1%

Global financial group Credit Suisse has published its latest Global Wealth Report for 2019, showing that South Africans have become poorer over the last decade.

According to Credit Suisse, household wealth in South Africa grew strongly prior to the global financial crisis, rising from US$9,560 in the year 2000 to US$25,280 in 2007 on a per-adult basis.

The country exceeded its 2007 wealth level for a single year in 2010 but mean wealth has declined by US$5,000 since then, leaving it with a wealth per adult of US$21,380 in mid-2019.

“This is largely due to currency depreciation, as the rand has lost half its value since 2010,” the group said.

“In local currency units, wealth per adult rose 55.9% from 2010 to 2019, although after correcting for inflation there was a fall of 0.1%, i.e. virtually no change.”

The group recorded a decline in total wealth held by the adult population in 2019 while also seeing declines in the number of wealthy individuals in the country.

65% of adults have wealth below US$10,000, which is higher than the 58% rate for the world as a whole. However, the country also has fewer individuals with wealth above US$100,000 – 3.2% versus 10.6%.

“Nevertheless, we estimate that 51,000 South Africans are members of the top 1% of global wealth holders and that 46,000 are USD millionaires.

“The overall level of wealth inequality is high. South Africa has a wealth Gini coefficient of 81% and the share of the top 1% in total household wealth is 35%,” the group said.

51,000 South Africans in the global 1% is a decline of 10,000 people from 61,000 recorded in 2018.

Using Credit Suisse’s data, we can determine that the average one-percenter is worth around $750,000 (R11 million).

South Africa has an adult population of 36 million people, carrying a total wealth of $770 billion (±R11.3 trillion).

The top 1% (360,000 people) account for 35% of this wealth ($265.9 billion), averaging at $748,661 per person (R10.99 million).

Category Number of adults % of wealth Wealth in USD Average wealth per person ZAR
Top 1% 360 270 35% $286.1 billion $748 661 R10.99 million

It’s not only the number of global one-percenters in South Africa that have declined: South Africa has also lost dollar millionaires, and the country’s middle class is also under pressure.

Globally speaking, the middle-class band of wealth is between $10,000 (R147,000) and $100,000 (R1.47 million) – in South Africa, approximately 32.2% of the adult population fall into this category, representing about 11.6 million adults.

Worryingly, this points to South Africa’s middle class shrinking over the last year, in global terms, having dropped from 33.1% of the population in 2018 (11.72 million adults).

Meanwhile, the proportion of the population with under US$10,000 in wealth has grown from 63.7% of the adult population (22.6 million people) to 64.6% of the adult population (23.3 million people).

In terms of dollar millionaires (those with a net worth above R14.7 million), South Africa is home to 46,000, Credit Suisse said. However, this is down from the 50,000 dollar millionaires recorded in 2018.

Top 1% earnings

The Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit (SALDRU) recently published a tool that tells you how your monthly income compares to the rest of the country, and into which percentile your household falls.

SALDRU forms part of the University of Cape Town’s School of Economics and conducts research into income mobility, the racial composition of social class and poverty in South Africa.

According to the data, to be among the richest 1% of South Africans you need a household income of R48,753 per month (after-tax). This is a single salary of R68,930 a month – or R828,000 a year.

The richest 10% take home over R7,313 a month.

The middle road income, separating the top half and bottom half of the country is R1,149 per month after tax – which is below the recently-adjusted upper-bound poverty line.


Read: How much you need to earn each month to be in the richest 1% in South Africa

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This is how much money you need to be part of South Africa’s richest 1%