Living Wages in South Africa, per month in ZAR

The Living Wage is based on the concept that work should provide an adequate income to cover the necessary living costs of a family. WageIndicator uses prices from the Cost of Living Survey to calculate Living Wage for 60 countries. The Living Wage is an approximate income needed to meet a family’s basic needs including food, housing, transport, health, education, tax deductions and other necessities.

The following table summarises the varying expenditure and income needs for the three commonly occurring family household compositions.

Expenditure and Living Wage calculation (monthly rates in Rand)

  Typical family   Standard family   Single-adult  
  from to from to from to
Food 2950 4050 2680 3680 670 920
Housing 4000 5040 4000 5040 2470 3590
Transport 600 960 600 960 300 480
Health 700 2000 700 2000 175 500
Education 1200 2000 1200 2000 0 0
Other costs 470 700 460 685 180 275
Total Expenditure 9920 14750 9640 14365 3795 5765
Net Living Wage 6200 9219 5356 7981 3795 5765
Gross Living Wage 6950 10300 6000 8940 4250 6460

Note: For more details see Living Wage FAQ.

Family Living Wages (monthly rates in Rand)

There is not a single answer to what is the adequate cost of living. The result is complex, as the cost of living varies by household composition, location, and employment pattern. The following table presents the Living Wage estimates for a set of most common family household compositions and under different assumptions about working hours.

  from to
Typical family (two parents + 2.4 children, 1.6 working) 6950 10300
Standard family (two parents + 2 children, 1.8 working) 6000 8940
Two parents and two children, 2 working 5400 8050
Two parents and two children, 1.5 working 7200 10700
Two parents and two children, 1 working 10800 16100
Two parents and three children, 1.6 working 7240 10700
Two parents and four children, 1.6 working 7730 11400
Single-adult without children, 1 working 4250 6460

Note: Results in the table are rounded.

Living Wages in Context (monthly rates in Rand)

The Minimum Wage is a national legally binding obligation on employers which often make no reference to a living standard. Living Wage describes the adequate living standard. The common goal of the many living wage campaigns currently taking place all over the world is to lift Minimum Wages levels to those of the Living Wages. WageIndicator presents Living Wages jointly with Minimum Wages, aiming to raise awareness concerning the remaining differences in levels. Living Wages are presented in context with other wage indicators including prevailing wages of workers over recent years.

  2014 . 2015 . 2016 . 2017 .
  from to from to from to from to
Minimum wage 1278 1278 1284 1284 1284 1284 2602 2602
Living Wage - Single Adult 4190 6230 4260 6190 4310 6340 4250 6460
Living Wage - Typical Family 6570 9700 6650 9690 7050 10200 6950 10300
Real wage of low-skilled worker 2700 3790 2870 4170 3020 4220 2720 3950
Real wage of medium-skilled worker 6040 9270 6180 9880 6300 9690 6370 10100
Real wage of high-skilled worker 12500 18900 13000 20300 13400 20200 13800 21300

Note: Table shows the lowest monthly Minimum Wage in a country, when available. Reported monthly earnings of workers in low-, medium-, and high-skilled occupations are obtained from the voluntary WageIndicator web survey on work and wages. Results in the table are rounded.


Food basket and food prices in Rand

The food expenditure is the main component of Living Wage and it is determined by the price of food basket. The food prices are taken from WageIndicator Cost of Living Survey which collects the actual prices of all items necessary to calculate the Living Wage. The composition of the food basket is taken from the national food balance sheets published by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The food basket is scaled to 2,100 calories per person per day that is the nutritional requirement for good health proposed by World Bank (Handbook on poverty and inequality, 2009).

Food itemGrams per dayEnergy (kcal)Price per kilo fromto
Wheat, barley and cereals 122 364 20 24
Rice 34 120 12.9 18
Meat (beef, pork, poultry) 136 249 45 60
Oils (soyabean, olive, palm) 15 133 19 25
Sugar (Raw Equivalent) 69 227 15 20
Maize and products 195 611 12 17.5
Milk - Excluding Butter 109 61 10 12
Vegetables, Other 49 16 18 22
Potatoes and products 60 43 10 15
Butter, Ghee 1 9 26 35
Groundnuts (Shelled Eq) 3 11 25 50
Pulses, Other and products 0 1 15 20
Cassava and products 0 0 10 14
Egg (price per 10 eggs) 14 20 13.3 16.7
Sunflowerseed Oil 10 90 20 29
Fish products 12 9 50 70
Beer 119 58 30 42
Sweeteners, Other 3 9 13 20
Beans 4 12 12 18
Sweet potatoes 2 2 12 15
Bananas 14 9 10 12
Soyabeans 2 9 15 20
Yams 0 0 13.5 20
Apples and products 22 6 15 18
Tomatoes and products 19 4 13 15.5
Onions 16 6 10 15
Oranges, Mandarines 14 4 13 20
Plantains 3 2 10 14
Peas 1 1 15 19
Roots, Other 0 0 10 12
Seeds and kernels 0 0 20 30
Wine 15 10 46.7 66.7
Pineapples and products 2 1 . .
Cream 0 0 25 40
Olives (including preserved) 0 0 30 45
Honey 0 1 40 55
Citrus, Other 0 0 10.9 15
Lemons, Limes and products 1 0 12 16
Tea (including mate) 1 0 20 30
Grapefruit and products 5 1 10 16
Coffee and products 2 1 53 80

WageIndicator Living Wage background:

The WageIndicator Living Wage is set to provide acceptable living standard to a family of a particular size. WageIndicator presents Living Wages for several household types and working hours which reflect the most frequently found real situations in which people have to make a living: 1. Typical family Living Wage is a baseline estimate that respects the country specific conditions. Typical family is comprised of two adults and the number of children is given by country specific fertility rate (the average number of children a woman is expected to have during her lifespan). One adult is working full-time and the working hours of second adult are approximated by national employment rate. The total income earned by two adults paid living wage is sufficient to reach adequate living standard. 2. Standard family Living Wage is estimated for a family composed of two adults and two children (referred to as family 2+2). Living wage is calculated under different assumptions about working hours. These include that both adults work full-time (family employment rate is 2), or at least one adult works part-time or half-time (family employment rate is 1.8 and 1.5), or one adult does not work at all (i.e. patriarchal model with family employment 1). Alternatives refer to trade-offs between leisure and work and define what living wage represents. In every case the total income earned by two adults paid living wage is sufficient to reach adequate living standard. 3. Extended family Living Wage includes family with three or four children. One adult works full-time and the work intensity of second parent is approximated by national employment rate. 4. Individual Living Wage represents an acceptable standard of living for a single individual working full-time.

Data sources: WageIndicator Cost of Living Survey, World Bank Databank Fertility rate 2010-2014, ILO Estimated participation rate in 2017, FAO Food balance sheet in 2013.

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