Salaries in South Africa – half of all workers earn less than you think

 ·10 May 2024

Stats SA has published new data on median salaries in South Africa, revealing huge differences between earnings across the country – and that most workers earn far less than the average of R25,000.

The median salary in South Africa was recorded at only R5,417 a month in 2022. The average salary at the time was R24,813 a month (December 2022).

A median records the middle point in a sorted list of numbers—effectively showing the mid-point of all salaries—while the average represents the total value divided among the set.

While the average represents an equal distribution among all salaried workers, the median presented by Stats SA shows about half of 13 million workers in South Africa earn below R5,400 a month, meaning most of the earnings are concentrated at the top.

In fact, top 5% earnings carry a higher median of R35,000 – compared to the bottom 5% where it is only a paltry R1,000 a month.

Stats SA’s data shows that this yawning gap in earnings is prevalent across various factors.

Median salary by sex

Across sexes, the median for male workers is R6,000 a month, while for women it is R4,800 – giving a pay gap of 25% (or women only earn 80% of what men earn).+

Median salary by race

In terms of racial distribution, the median salary among white workers is R21,000, versus the lowest median of R4,700 among black South Africans.

Median salary by industry

Shifts in median pay also hinge on the skill level and the industry in which South Africans work.

The utility industry pays the highest median salary (~R16,000 a month), followed by mining (~R14,000). On the opposite end, private households (~R2,000) and agriculture (~R4,000) pay the lowest median.

Median salary by skill level

As would be expected, skilled workers earn higher median salaries (R21,000) compared to semi-skilled (R5,500) and low-skilled (R3,300) workers. Professionals earn the highest (R24,000), while domestic workers (R2,350) earn the lowest.

Median salary by work hours

Those in full-time employment (35 hours+ a week) also have a much higher earning median (R6,000) than those working fewer than 35 hours a week (R1,950).

Median salary by province

The disparities are also evident on geographical lines, where workers in Gauteng have a higher median (R7,500 per month) than any other province. Limpopo has the lowest median (R4,200) a month.

According to Stats SA, Gauteng is the only province to consistently record median monthly earnings above the national average over the review period.

The data tracked by Stats SA covered 2017 to 2022, using information from the Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS).

Read: Good news for salary hikes in South Africa

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