Employment sectors with the highest average salaries in South Africa

Employment data from Statistics South Africa reveals which workers in the country’s non-farm formal sectors earn the highest average wages.

Data from the Stats SA Quarterly Employment Survey covers eight key industries or sectors in South Africa, which are divided into 20 sub-categories, mainly made up of various manufacturing sectors, as well as a breakdown between the government community and non-governmental and social services. .

The dataset covers earnings estimates in 90 different job types in the formal nonfarm sector, giving an indication of which job types or sectors generate the highest monthly earnings.

QES data is an enterprise-based survey that collects information from businesses and non-farm organizations from approximately 20,000 units.

The survey excludes agricultural workers, the self-employed with unincorporated businesses, unpaid family workers and private domestic workers among employees. Employees holding more than one job and thus appearing on more than one payroll are counted separately for each appearance.

According to the data, formal workers earned a total of R746.8 billion in the three-month period ending September 2021, an average of R25,800 per month over the period.

In the broader sectors, those working in the electricity, gas and water supply industry received the highest wages at R47,300 per month, followed by those working in government at R32. 100 rand.

The mining sector, the manufacture of telecommunications equipment and the manufacture of petroleum and chemical products are the second best paid, with an average of around R30,000 per month.

Looking at more specific employment data, estimates from Stats SA indicate that workers involved in the manufacture of coke oven products, oil refineries and nuclear fuel processing are the top earners in the country, with a average salary of R60,000 per month.

This is followed by ancillary financial intermediation activities at R58,100; supply of electricity, gas, steam and water at R52,600; and IT and related activities at R47,100 per month.

At the opposite end of the list, those working in the broad textile, clothing and leather sector tend to be the lowest average earners at R10,300 per month.

However, in more job-specific data, workers in the hospitality industry – such as waiters and reception staff – are the lowest earners at R7,550 per month. Given the time period covered by the data – being during the Covid-19 pandemic when the hospitality sector was badly affected – this may be more representative of contemporary trends.

Over the period, the number of employed fell in all industries except finance where employment increased by 138,000. The largest employment decline was in the trade sector (-309,000), followed by community and social services (-210,000), construction and private households (-65,000 each).

The table below shows the highest and lowest paid employment sectors in South Africa, based on the most recent earnings data as reported by Stats SA. The industry segments are described as follows:

  • Mining includes mines and quarries
  • Manufacturing includes food and beverages, furniture, textiles, wood, printing and publishing, petroleum and chemicals, non-metallic and mineral products, electrical, medical and technology-related appliances, and transport equipment
  • Electricity includes gas and water supply
  • To exchange includes wholesale, retail, automotive, hotel and restaurant
  • Transport includes freight, storage and postal communications
  • Business services include financial intermediation, banking, insurance and real estate
  • Community includes social and personal services, divided between governmental and non-governmental entities.


Read: 13 jobs in South Africa that pay over R1.5m in 2022

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