Labor Law

Minimum wage and average salaries in South Africa

Learn about the national minimum wage and average salaries in South Africa, so you know what to expect when working in the country.

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Updated 21-5-2024

When moving to South Africa, immigrants have many things to consider, for example, finding a job and earning a fair income to afford the cost of living.

This article will clarify everything you need to know about South Africa’s minimum wage and average salaries with sector and regional examples, and what to do if you are not earning enough.

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Does South Africa have a national minimum wage?

Although South Africa legally has a minimum wage, it is one of the lowest in the world.

It is significantly lower than major economies like Australia, the United States (US), the United Kingdom (UK), Canada, Japan, and most European Union (EU) member states.

Restaurant owner discusses waiter's wage with her while standing in the café kitchen

South Africa’s journey to minimum wage began in the 1990s, as the country moved towards democratic reform. The first real push was the 2014 ANC Election Manifesto, which stated that a national minimum wage was crucial to reducing income inequality.

With the support of former President Jacob Zuma and current President Cyril Ramaphosa, a Labour Relations Indaba (i.e., discussion or conference) was convened in 2014 to explore the process and practicalities of introducing a minimum wage in the country. After many studies, meetings, and consultations, the government finally drafted an agreement in February 2017.

However, the legal framework only eventuated when the National Minimum Wage Act (NMW) was passed in 2018. As such, a minimum wage of R20/hour only occurred in January 2019. Some industries had lower minimum wage rates, including domestic and farm workers. However, since 2022, all workers must receive the same base wage.  

As of 1 March 2023, the minimum wage is set at R25.42/hour, a 9.6% increase from the previous rate of R23.19/hour. In addition, employers cannot count allowances such as transport, food, uniforms, accommodation, or other benefits toward the minimum wage.

You can use this handy wage calculator – Mywage – to determine how much you should be paid based on your qualifications, experience, and region.

Are there any exclusions and variations concerning South Africa’s minimum wage?

Since its inception, the minimum wage in South Africa has had several exemptions and variations. This is especially true with groups within the private sector, which have councils to conduct collective bargaining with the government to set their own minimum wages.

For example, the wage increases from 2020 to 2021 for some councils were:

  • BC for the Restaurant, Catering, and Allied Trades: 6%
  • Fishing Industry Council: 7%
  • Meat Trade Council: 8%
  • Motor Industry Bargaining Council: 7%
Farmworker driving a tractor through a vineyard in the countryside outside Cape Town
Western Cape (Photo: tirc83/Getty Images)

In addition, specific sectors had lower minimum wages, for example:

  • Farm workers: R21.69/hour
  • Domestic workers: R19.09/hour
  • Employers of expanded public works programs: R12.75/hour

However, with the changes to the national minimum wage that came into effect in early 2023, farm and domestic workers will now receive the same minimum wage as employees in other fields.

Interns and apprentices

The minimum wage for internships is a legal grey area in South Africa.

The country’s Labour Relations Act (1995) governs internships and apprenticeships. The Act considers internships as a “training agreement” and the intern as an employee. As such, the minimum wage technically applies to them. However, if the internship is part of a registered training program, they are exempt from the minimum wage requirement. This is also true for apprenticeships that are three months or less.

Fortunately, with support from the judicial system, interns have successfully challenged employers who have failed to pay them a fair wage.

What can you do if you earn under the minimum wage in South Africa?

South Africa does have processes for recourse against employers who do not pay the minimum wage. And, legally, employers may face penalties if their employees’ salaries are too low.

Workers have two options if they feel their income does not match their responsibilities or meet the minimum wage in South Africa:

  1. File a dispute with the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation, and Arbitration (CCMA). The commission will try to resolve the issue, but if this is impossible, refer it to arbitration.
  2. Complain to the Department of Employment and Labour (DOL). The employer must provide written confirmation that they will pay the minimum wage, or the Department may issue a compliance order. If these do not have the desired effect, the claim will go to the CCMA for arbitration.
Woman working late, only lit by the desk lamp and the light from her laptop and phone, she looks irritated.
Photo: PeopleImages/Getty Images

Although both institutions deal with minimum wage disputes in South Africa, employees can only file a claim with one body at a time.

Employers who do not pay the national minimum wage receive penalties in South Africa. This fine is twice the value of the discrepancy between the minimum wage and the employee’s earnings. For example, if an employee receives R10 less than the minimum wage, the fine will be R20.

However, the CCMA may choose to apply a penalty that is double the employee’s monthly salary. As such, if the employee earns R500/month, the penalty may be R1,000.

What is the average salary in South Africa?

The average salary in South Africa, as of September 2022, is around R26,000/month, an increase of 4.5% from 2021. In general, this basic salary includes:

Employers also deduct contributions to the country’s social security system from employees’ salaries but do not cover sick pay. Instead, workers must accrue sick days.  

In general, South African salaries are low compared to global earnings. For example, most countries in the Global North (i.e., Northern America, Europe, Israel, Japan, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand), as well as Singapore, Hong Kong, China, and the Gulf states have much higher average incomes. Still, earnings are better than in countries like Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Egypt, India, and Vietnam.

However, the cost of living in South Africa is lower than in many other countries.

The average salary in South Africa by sector

Many jobs in South Africa pay above the national minimum wage.

Newspaper editor discussing articles/stories with two journalists in an editorial meeting in South Africa
Photo: HRAUN/Getty Images

Here are some of the monthly average salaries across different roles and industries.

  • Accountant: R33,911
  • Architect: R80,000
  • Investment Banker: R24,500
  • Teacher: R25,000
  • Electrician: R25,000
  • Civil Engineer: R54,167
  • Bartender: R27,750
  • Nurse: R27,500
  • System Administrator: R35,000
  • Journalist: R18,000
  • Lawyer: R60,001
  • Marketing Manager: R40,000

The average salary in South Africa by region

As in other countries, incomes can vary across different parts of South Africa, with higher earnings in the big cities – due to more competition and work opportunities – but also to compensate for the more expensive cost of living.

For example, average salaries across the provinces’ largest cities range between:

ProvinceCityMontly Income
Free StateBloemfonteinR24,000–29,000
GautengJohannesburgR33,000–37,000
Eastern CapeGqeberha (formerly Port Elizabeth)R26,000–27,000
KwaZulu NatalDurbanR28,000–31,000
LimpopoPolokwaneR32,000–34,000
MpumalangaMbombelaR29,000–34,000
Northern CapeKimberleyR29,000–34,000
North WestMahikengR28,000–32,000
Western CapeCape TownR32,000–36,000

Below are estimations of the average annual salaries for specific roles in the country’s two biggest cities, Johannesburg and Cape Town. Of course, these are professional jobs requiring a tertiary degree or diploma; therefore, the salaries are above the national minimum wage.

Cape Town

  • Pharmacist: R972,987
  • Personal Trainer: R260,872
  • Bank Teller: R190,741
  • Registered Nurse: R417,041
  • Marketing Specialist: R456,294

Johannesburg

  • Pharmacist: R165,657
  • Personal Trainer: R310,529
  • Bank Teller: R226,582
  • Registered Nurse: R496,425
  • Marketing Specialist: R546,195

Which salary checker or calculator is best to use?

There are many websites in South Africa where you can explore salaries across industries, roles, and regions. Here are a few of the most popular:

Does South Africa have a gender pay gap?

Despite its strides with the national minimum wage, South Africa still sees a significant gender pay gap, even though it decreased from about 40% in 1993 to around 16% in 2014.

Business meeting - three men and a woman standing in office looking at writing on a window, due to the gender pay gap in South Africa, women often get lower wages than men for doing the same job
Photo: DOUGBERRY/Getty Images

Currently, the median gender pay gap is between 23% and 35%, above the global average of 20% and similar to what you can expect in countries like Japan, South Korea, and Israel. However, it is higher than most countries, including the UK, the US, Canada, the Union of South American Nations (Unasur), and EU member states.

How do the salaries and wages compare for international workers in South Africa?

If you are originally from the Global North, your local salary will likely be lower than you receive at home. This is especially true if you earn in South African Rand rather than a stronger currency. Still, internationals will find the highest-paying jobs in Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Durban, the country’s biggest economic centers.

South Africa’s most robust industries include the automotive, IT, mining, and banking sectors offering the best employment opportunities for immigrants, especially with the expertise knowledge, valuable experience, and the right skills. As a side note, it is a good idea to keep your skills relevant by continually learning, which you can easily do with online courses through Coursera and Skillshare.

Indeed, salaries for most roles in these sectors above will be well above the national minimum wage.

What can you do if your salary is too low?

Employees can report their company to the DOL for non-compliance with the minimum wage or for paying discriminatory salaries. You can call the Employment Equity helpline at 086–010–1018, or contact the provincial office where you work.

The South African Employment Equity Act (1998) explicitly prohibits “unfair discrimination” at work. As such, employers should not treat workers unjustly based on gender, race, marital status, sexual orientation, age, or politics.

Because of this stipulation, employees have the right to recourse if their salary is too low, as long as they can justify it is because of discrimination. For example, the claimant must prove that a colleague receives a higher wage for doing the same job based on gender or race discrimination.