Minimum wage in South Africa

Minimum wage in South Africa: How much should you earn?

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Is there a minimum wage in South Africa? While a national South African minimum wage is under discussion, some sectors have their own wage levels, particularly to protect casual and domestic workers in South Africa.

With South Africa’s unemployment rate at 26.5 percent in early 2017, imposing a South African minimum wage is a hot topic at government level.

In November 2016, the South African government initiated a proposal to set a national minimum wage in South Africa of ZAR 3,500 per month, a figure in excess of the wage currently earned by nearly half of the working population.

The government hopes to implement this minimum wage South Africa within two years, following a period of consultation, but it faces significant opposition.

On one side, the South African political party Economic Freedom Fighters claims that a national minimum wage South Africa of at least ZAR 4,500 per month is required to improve the living standards of underpaid workers. Other campaigners in the country, however, believe that bringing in any form of a minimum wage in South Africa will cause an increase in unemployment, as financially stretched companies won’t be able to afford to pay higher salaries.

This guide provides important information on possible changes regarding the new South African minimum wage, as well as information on minimum wages for casual workers such as farm workers, cleaners, drivers, electricians, gardeners, waiters and domestic workers in the hospitality industry and construction.

What is the minimum wage in South Africa?

South African minimum wage

What is the minimum wage in South Africa?

While there isn’t yet a national living wage in South Africa, some employment sectors can set their own minimum wages, although how it works can be quite complicated.

These sectorial minimum wages are designed to help vulnerable, low-paid workers, and are generally set through collective bargaining in private sector councils, or by direct regulation from the government following the Labour Relations Act and Basic Conditions of Employment Act.

Recent figures from private economic research organisation show that nearly 84.5 percent of South African workers earn a regular wage or salary. The minimum wages within the private sector, which are set by private sector councils, vary widely with those working in lower paid industries like cosmetology and hairdressing receiving between ZAR 1,809–4,749 and those employed in the metal an engineering sector getting paid between ZAR 3,992–12,687 per month.

The government also sets its own sectorial wage rates for specific industries. The rates, however, are slightly lower than those mandated by the private sector councils. When setting minimum wages in individual sectors, the Minister of Labour seeks advice from the Employment Conditions Commission. This is to ensure that the Basic Conditions of Employment Act are met, and that businesses will be able to afford to operate if they have to pay a minimum wage.

Some of the sectors that have set sectorial wages include the following: domestic work/contract cleaning, private security, forestry, wholesale and retail, hospitality, agriculture, taxi, learnership, hospitality, metal and engineering, pharmaceuticals and petroleum industries.

South African minimum wage by sector

For industries that operate a minimum wage, the level employers are required to pay varies significantly depending on role and geographic location. 

While some industries split South Africa into two or three pay zones when setting their minimum wage, others use as many as seven or eight areas, which can cause confusion.

To add another layer of complexity, different rules apply in some sectors depending on whether staff work more than 27 hours per week.

You can find the most up-to-date minimum wage information for specific sectors and areas of South Africa on the MyWage website.

South African minimum wage for domestic workers

Minimum wage for domestic workers in South Africa

Domestic workers in South Africa currently account for around 8 percent of the overall workforce.

Unfortunately, while domestic work is an area where a sector-specific minimum wage does apply, salaries remain lower than in other industries.

According to the latest salary information, the current minimum wage for domestic workers ranges from ZAR 1,562 to ZAR 2,422 per month, depending on where the worker lives. While this rule offers some safeguards for domestic workers, even the highest wage remains below the national minimum proposed by the South African government.

Minimum wage in South Africa: Foreign employees

Sector-specific minimum wages for South African also apply to foreign workers, and the proposed national minimum wage will also apply to both South African nationals and foreign employees, if the government successfully brings it in.

Labour laws, however, will remain the same. This means if a South African company wants to employ a foreign national, they’ll first need to secure a work permit.

Read Expatica's guide for more information on how to get a South African work visa.

Minimum wage in South Africa for casual workers

Labour law in South Africa: how wages are paid

Pay in South Africa is regulated by the Basic Conditions of Employment Act. This act allows employers to calculate and pay wages using an hourly, daily, weekly or monthly system.

While employers can choose their preferred pay period, they must pay staff in South African rand within seven days of this period ending.

According to the rules, domestic workers who are paid on a daily basis should receive their money either during working hours or within 15 minutes of their shift ending.

While South African rules allow employers to pay their staff by cash or cheque, they are obliged to provide pay slips, which must include their name and address, details of the pay per period, any deductions, and (if applicable), the rate of pay for overtime.

You can find further information about worker rights in South Africa on the Department for Labour website

Compare the miniumum wage in South Africa to other countries

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) provides an overview of statistics and comparative charts on minimum wages here. You can also find out about minimum wages in our guides below:


Click to the top of our guide to South African minimum wage



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