Study: Average salary in SA is R6,400 & it's not enough to live on

Retail was the biggest employer of people in the country, but it also happened to be the most exploitative industry with 40% of workers earning below minimum wage.


JOHANNESBURG - While unemployment in South Africa was at an alarmingly high rate at 27.6%, some employed South Africans faced many challenges including earning salaries that weren't enough to get by on, despite being part of those fortunate enough to have a job.

According to a new study by automated recruitment platform, Giraffe, 29% of working people earned less than the national minimum wage of R3,500 a month. For those earning above the minimum wage, the average salary was R6,400, which was not quite enough to get by on a monthly basis.

The platform analysed its database of close to one million medium-skilled candidates to generate an accurate representation of salaries for junior to medium-skilled employees in South Africa across industries, roles, experience level and education level.

According to the study, the average salary in South Africa was R6,400, while the living wage income (based on the concept that work should provide an adequate income to cover the necessary living costs of a family) required for a dignified quality of life was R6,570 and 70% of the working population in the country earned below this amount.

Giraffe said this amount was in stark contrast to Statistics South Africa's data because Giraffe only focused its study on workforce and not high-level managers, CEOs etc.


The biggest employer of people in the country was the retail industry, employing 18% of the workforce, but it also happened to be the most exploitative industry with 40% of workers earning below minimum wage.

Banking and IT were the highest paying sectors, but were the smallest employers, employing only 8% of the working population.

Call centres were the second-biggest employers (11.1%). But with companies such as pay-TV company MultiChoice retrenching thousands of employees, the majority being including call centre agents, would the sector sustain such a big workforce in the near future?

"Reducing poverty, inequality and boosting employment have long been on the agenda of South Africa’s development policies and programmes. However, South Africa has the highest level of inequality in the world, as evidenced by its Gini coefficient (a standard measure of inequality), and significant effort will be needed to address this. Measuring income is therefore critical if effective policies for wealth creation and distribution are to be effected," Giraffe said in its study.