The latest employment data from Statistics South Africa reveals which workers in the country’s formal, non-agricultural sectors earn the highest average salaries.
Stats SA’s Quarterly Employment Survey (QES) data covers eight key industries or sectors in South Africa, which is split further into 20 sub-categories, mainly made up of various manufacturing sectors, as well as a split between government and non-government community and social services.
The dataset covers earning estimates across 90 job types in the formal, non-agricultural sector, indicating which job types or sectors draw the highest monthly earnings.
According to the QES for the first quarter of 2023, total gross earnings paid to employees decreased by R34.1 billion or -4.0% from R864.2 billion in December 2022 to R830.0 billion in March 2023.
This was largely due to decreases in the trade, community services, manufacturing, construction, transport and electricity industries.
The year-on-year total gross earnings increased by R43.2 billion or 5.5% between March 2022 and March 2023.
Basic salary/wages paid to employees decreased by R11.8 billion or -1.6% from R751.2 billion in December 2022 to R739.4 billion in March 2023.
According to the data, there was quarter-on-quarter decrease of 2.7% in average monthly earnings paid to employees, dropping from R26,002 in November 2022 to R25,304 in February 2023.
The year-on-year average monthly earnings paid to employees in the formal non-agricultural sector increased by 6.8%.
An overview of the South African job market shows that those working in electricity, water and gas supply are currently the top earners in the country, pulling in an average salary of R53,902 a month (down from R60,134 a month in the previous quarter).
This is followed by those working in finance, where the average salary is R33,654 a month – ahead of the mining and quarrying sector.
Government workers rank fourth in terms of sector pay, with an average of R31,991 a month, just ahead of the overall community services sector (R31,970).
The lowest-paid industries are the textile manufacturing and furniture manufacturing industries, where the average pay is R10,977 (down from R12,657) and R14,885 ( down from R17,370), respectively.
Looking at the more granular data – diving into specific sectors within each industry – the picture changes.
While those working in the electricity industry are paid higher on average, those working in activities auxiliary to financial intermediation are the highest paid overall, taking home an average of R79,435 a month. This is up significantly from R69,617 a month in the previous quarter.
Workers in sea and coastal transport have jumped up the list and are now the second-highest paid at R69,529 a month.
Bankers and electricity workers are third and fourth, respectively, earning R58,435 and R58,383 a month on average.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, those working in the hotel and restaurant industry have tanked to the bottom of the list, earning on average only R9,080 a month. This is below lower-end manufacturing jobs, such as sawmilling (R9,545), knitted fabrics (R9,695) and apparel (R10,008).
The table below outlines the 20 highest-paying job sectors in South Africa, based on the most recent earnings data as reported by Stats SA. The full list is embedded below or can be downloaded here. The industry segments are described as follows:
- Mining includes mining and quarrying
- Manufacturing includes food and beverages, furniture, textiles, wood, printing and publishing, petroleum and chemicals, non-metals and mineral products, electrical, medical and technology-related apparatus, and transport equipment
- Electricity includes gas and water supply
- Trade includes wholesale, retail, motor, hotel and restaurants
- Transport includes freight, storage and postal communication
- Business services include financial intermediation, banking, insurance and real estate
- Community includes social and personal services, split among government and non-government entities.