South Africans are poorer – despite a jump in take-home pay

 ·31 Jan 2024

Despite take-home pay increasing in 2023, South Africans are earning less when accounting for inflation.

The BankservAfrica Take-home Pay Index (BTPI), which measures the average nominal take-home pay among approximately 4 million salary earners in South Africa, ended 2023 at R15,409 This was a 5.6% higher than the R14,596 recorded in December 2022.

However, with inflation increasing over the period (average CPI levels at 6.0%), salary earners have earned less in real terms for the third straight year.

In December 2023, real take-home pay was at R13,732 – a 4.7% drop compared in 2022. This highlights the significant ongoing erosion in the purchasing power of salary earners.

“This pressure on disposable income is evident in the dwindling retail sales growth, with real growth for the eleven months to November 2023 at 1.5% lower than the previous year, while passenger car sales have also contracted in 2023,” said Elize Kruger, an Independent Economist.

BankservAfrica said that significant increases in the operating cost environment due to domestic and global factors, such as load shedding, have hurt companies’ profits, impacting their ability to pay inflation-related salary increases over the past 18-24 months.

However, there are some silver linings for the year ahead. With international oil prices and the rand exchange rate expected to be stable on an annual average basis in 2024, consumer inflation is predicted to moderate from 6.0% in 2023 to 5.2% in 2024.

Lower inflation and, in turn, lower interest rates could help cash-strapped South African households in regard to spending and confidence levels.

In addition, StatsSA’s latest Labour Force Survey (LFS) showed that 399,000 jobs were created in Q3, bringing the unemployment rate down from 32.9% the year earlier to 31.9%.

BankservAfrica’s sample showed that 430,000 more salaries were paid in Q4 2023, which indicates that unemployment should ease further.

Although the BankservAfrica Private Pensions Index (BPPI) droped slightly in nominal and real terms in the last five months of 2023, it was still in positive territory on an annual basis.

“The average nominal private pension fell slightly to R10,606 in December compared to the previous month’s R10,647 – however, still a healthy 5.7% higher than a year earlier,” said Shergeran Naidoo, BankservAfrica’s Head of Stakeholder Engagements.

The average private pension of R10,657 in 2023 was an increase of 6.8% year-on-year, showing that the purchasing power of pensioners had endured in spite of the high inflation environment. In real terms, the average BPPI increased by 0.8%.

“The value of total take-home pay and private pension payments processed by BankservAfrica in December 2023 increased by 6.0% and 0.8% in nominal and real terms, respectively, compared to a year earlier on a non-seasonally adjusted and smoothed basis,” the group said.

Read: IMF slashes South Africa’s GDP growth forecast for 2024

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