This is the average salary in South Africa by race and industry


New data from a minimum wage report from School of Economic and Business Sciences (SEBS) at the University of the Witwatersrand shows how much the average South African gets paid across race, gender and industry in the country.

The data forms part of The National Minimum Wage Research Initiative’s (NMW-RI) investigation in to what level of minimum wage would be adequate for South Africa.

The NMW-RI is an independent academic research project run by the Corporate Strategy and Industrial Development (CSID) Research Unit in the School of Economic and Business Sciences (SEBS) at the University of the Witwatersrand.

Drawing from a wealth of statistics and databases (including, but not limited to data from the department of labour, various research papers, surveys, the PALMS series and many others), the researchers were able to determine the average (mean) and median wages across industries, genders and race groups in South Africa.

What the group found, echos recent data published by Analytico, which showed that, on average, men earn far more than women – and in terms of racial demographics, whites earned far more than blacks.


Overall, in South Africa, the average salary increased 35% between 2003 and 2012, to R7,443 (median: R3.897), with extremely high levels of wage inequality, where the upper decile of earners command 40% of the wages paid.

The table below shows the mean (average) and median (the midpoint in the
wage distribution above (and below) which 50% of workers earn) salaries across the racial groups and gender lines in South Africa – and how they have changed between 2003 and 2012.

Mean and median monthly earnings by race: 2003 – 2012

Median Mean
Race 2003 2012 Increase 2003 2012 Increase
White 14 468 16 581 15% 11 249 11 991 7%
Asian/Indian 7 825 11 701 50% 5 264 8 993 60%
Coloured 4 241 7 058 66% 2 437 3 897 60%
Black African 4 059 5 445 34% 2 437 2 998 23%

Mean and median monthly earnings by gender: 2003 – 2012

Median Mean
Race 2003 2012 Increase 2003 2012 Increase
Male 5 963 8 299 39% 3 375 4 317 28%
Female 4 849 6 399 32% 2 435 3 118 28%

Notably, while white workers have consistently earned the highest monthly salary over the decade covered, they saw the smallest increase.

The NMW-RI also tracked wage data across different sectors in the country over the same period, showing which industries paid their employees the most, and the least.

Mean and median monthly earnings by sector: 2003 – 2012

Median Mean
Race 2003 2012 Increase 2003 2012 Increase
Utilities 10 509 11 063 5% 5 624 7 195 28%
Services 8 465 10 474 24% 7 499 7 195 -4%
Mining 6 004 10 245 71% 3 937 7 195 83%
Finance 10 295 9 624 -7% 5 249 5 396 3%
Transport 7 230 8 142 13% 4 687 5 036 7%
Manufacturing 5 958 7 654 28% 3 750 4 197 12%
Trade 4 417 6 192 40% 2 625 3 597 37%
Construction 3 553 5 162 45% 2 531 3 118 23%
Agriculture 1 352 2 889 114% 1 125 1 559 39%
Domestic services 1 096 1 695 55% 844 1 439 71%
Overall 5 517 7 443 35% 3 187 3 897 22%

Currently, South Africa does not have a national minimum wage. Instead wages are set on a sectoral basis through collective agreements negotiated at the level of the firm or bargaining council, or through sectoral determinations published by the government.

According to the NMW-RI, as many as 2.35 million low-wage workers are excluded from minimum wage coverage, while sectoral wages take into account only a limited range of factors – usually ignoring wage inequality, and broader social issues.


The group’s research showed that, using international benchmarks, South Africa should have a minimum wage of between R4,000 and R5,500 – a level which it says will prove most economically beneficial without a massive impact on employment.


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