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South Africa's Widening Wage Gap: A Comparative Look at Earners

Published September 21, 2023
9 months ago

South Africa's widening income disparity once again finds itself under scrutiny as recent data unearths a deepening gap between the nation's top executives, politicians, and ordinary citizens. As South Africa retains its place as the world's most unequal society, the reality of this inequality gets starker when analysing their disparate wage incomes.



Statistics South Africa has highlighted that over half (50%) of all wage income goes to the country's top 10% earners, while the bottom half fares far worse with a meagre 8%.


In the political sphere, Thembi Nkadimeng, the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta), recently announced revised salary scales for mayors, speakers, and mayoral executive council members. The 2023 salary increase sits at 3.8% as outlined in a recently published Government Gazette. Despite a clamour for a 7% hike, President Cyril Ramaphosa approved only a 3% salary increase for all public office bearers for the 2022/23 period.



The earnings data of CEOs from the 10 largest companies listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) underscores the vast wage differences. The highest earner, BHP Billiton's CEO Mike Henry, cashed out a staggering R265 million in 2022, dwarfing even the nation's top politicians' salaries.


Simultaneously, the average South African earns around R25,304 monthly, according to Stats SA's Quarterly Employment Survey for Q1 2023. The state pension or the Older Persons Grant stands at R2,080 monthly for recipients aged 60 to 74, and R2,100 for those over 75.


The yawning wage gap depicts an unsettling reality facing South Africa, where the median salary for business executives is a mind boggling 353 times the average salary of a regular citizen, painting a grim picture of income inequality in the country.


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