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%|
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|
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.