IT salaries – South Africa vs the UK

South Africa has historically suffered from a significant “brain drain”, with skilled professionals leaving to search for better opportunities overseas.

Many young South African professionals who emigrated to Europe and the United Kingdom cited better job opportunities, travel, and higher salaries as reasons for leaving the country.

“I am earning almost three-times as much as I was in South Africa, and although it is a lot more expensive to live here, I am able to save more money and travel a lot more than I did when I was living in South Africa,” one young IT professional who now lives overseas told MyBroadband.

The COVID-19 crisis has put a temporary stopper in the emigration trends we have seen over the last few years, but this is expected to continue once global travel restrictions return to normal.

With the state of the South African economy declining so drastically as a result of the national lockdown, many more South Africans may opt to emigrate once they are able to – especially if they cannot find jobs locally.

To determine how lucrative job opportunities are overseas compared to South Africa, we compared the average salaries of popular IT positions in South Africa and in the United Kingdom.

IT salaries comparison

We used figures from Indeed, PayScale, and Glassdoor to compare average pay in both countries.

The UK salary figures are listed in pounds (GBP) and are paired with a converted South African rand figure based on the exchange rate at the time of writing.

The average salaries for 10 popular IT jobs in South Africa and the UK are listed below.

IT Salary Comparison
Job South Africa United Kingdom
Computer Support Specialist R174,500 £21,268 (R455,440)
Web Developer R194,817 £25,528 (R546,666)
Database Administrator R203,277 £30,053 (R643,566)
System Administrator R232,483 £25,471 (R545,445)
Information Security Analyst R299,073 £33,275 (R712,563)
Software Engineer R367,988 £37,041 (R793,209)
DevOps Engineer R403,376 £41,865 (R896,512)
Data Engineer R450,025 £39,988 (R856,317)
IT Manager R500,685 £40,116 (R859,058)
Senior Solutions Architect R965,437 £72,405 (R1,550,506)

Taxes and net earnings

The gross salary comparison between South Africa and the UK definitely falls in favour of the United Kingdom, but there are also taxes to consider.

The amount of tax you pay in South Africa and the UK depends on how much you earn – placing you within different tax brackets.

The UK taxes citizens at a fixed percentage while South Africa employs a sliding scale that taxes fixed amounts from a certain band.

Below are the tax bands for the United Kingdom.

UK Tax Bands
Up to £12,500 0%
£12,501 – £50,000 20%
£50,001 – £150,000 40%
Over £150,000 45%

Below are the 2020/2021 tax bands for South African citizens, according to SARS.

SA Tax Bands (1 March 2020 – 28 February 2021)
Up to R205,900 18% of taxable income
R205,901 – R321,600 R37,062 + 26% of taxable income above R205,900
R321,601 – R445,100 R67,144 + 31% of taxable income above R321,600
R445,101 – R584,200 R105,429 + 36% of taxable income above R445,100
R584,201 – R744,800 R155,505 + 39% of taxable income above R584,200
R744,801 – R1,577,300 R218,139 + 41% of taxable income above R744,800
R1,577,300 and above R559,464 + 45% of taxable income above R1,577,300

Spending power

Salaries are significantly higher in the UK than they are in South Africa, but the cost of living is also far more expensive.

This is best demonstrated in large cities such as Johannesburg and London.

It is far more expensive to rent an apartment in London than in Johannesburg, and the property you will get for the same price will be nowhere near as large.

We used the Big Mac Index to give a rough idea of spending power differences between the two countries.

The Big Mac Index compares the price of a Big Mac in multiple countries across the world to provide a rough estimate of spending power.

The cheaper a Big Mac is in a country, the more purchasing power people in that country have.

While the Big Mac Index is by no means an accurate tool for noting currency misalignment, it does provide a rough idea of how currencies are valued against one another.

Below is a spending power comparison between South Africa, the UK, and the United States, according to the Big Mac Index for 2019.

Big Mac Index Spending Power SA vs UK

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IT salaries – South Africa vs the UK