IT salaries – South Africa vs UK

South African IT professionals looking to advance their careers and earn a better salary could consider moving to the UK.

The country has been one of the most popular destinations for emigrating South Africans over the last decade.

A 2015 estimate from the United Nations claimed that South Africans accounted for the 7th highest number of foreign-born people residing in the UK.

The reasons are obvious – the UK offers plenty of jobs for skilled workers and has a resolute economy – two areas in which South Africa’s performance has been poor.

The exodus of UK workers to European countries has also created greater demand for foreign workers to fill a growing number of vacant positions.

According to networking website LinkedIn’s latest workforce report, the UK recorded an influx of workers from South Africa over the last 12 months.

The country’s office for national statistics showed there was an estimated 229,000 South Africans currently living in the UK. This does not take into account those who emigrated to the country through ancestral connections.

Qualified and promising South African professional are also set to benefit from drastic UK visa reforms that will make it easier for them to move to the country.

A new elite points based-visa will reportedly be aimed at attracting fintech professionals in particular.

Comparing salaries

To see whether the move would be worthwhile from a financial perspective, we compared the average salaries of 10 typical IT positions of varying skill levels in South Africa and the UK.

Using figures from Indeed, PayScale, and Glassdoor, we calculated the average pay for each job in South Africa and the UK.

The table below shows what we found, with salaries in the UK indicated in the British pound and paired with their rand value converted at the R19.58 exchange rate at the time of writing.

IT Salary Comparison
Job South Africa United Kingdom
Computer Support Specialist R194,764 £23,768 (R465,377)
Web Developer R251,166 £30,713 (R601,361)
Database Administrator R280,488 £35,971 (R704,312)
Systems Administrator R318,338 £31,159 (R610,093)
Information Security Analyst R501,520 £34,694 (R679,309)
Software Engineer R442,570 £41,574 (R814,019)
DevOps Engineer R512,118 £51,180 (R1,002,104)
Data Engineer R550,009 £48,353 (R946,752)
IT Manager R510,117 £44,609 (R873,444)
Senior Solutions Architect R1,125,088 £73,222 (R1,433,687)

While the comparison above shows that IT salaries in the UK are generally much higher than in South Africa, it does not take into account the income tax you would have to pay on the salary.

In the UK, the majority of these salaries would fall in the 20% tax band, while a select few would fall in the 40% category.

In South Africa, the income tax would be higher relative to the salary for all the positions, with the exception of the Computer Support Specialist.

In addition to the percentage-based tax, South Africans pay a set amount in each tax band, putting a bigger dent on their take-home pay.

The tables below show the latest income tax bands for the UK and South Africa.

UK Tax Bands
Up to £12,570 0%
£12,571 – £50,270 20%
£50,271– £150,000 40%
Over £150,000 45%
SA Tax Bands (1 March 2021 – 28 February 2022)
Up to R216,200 18% of taxable income
R216,201 – R337,800 R38,916 + 26% of taxable income above R216,200
R337,801 – R467,500 R70,532 + 31% of taxable income above R337,800
R467,501 – R613,600 R110,739 + 36% of taxable income above R467,500
R613,601 – R782,200 R163,335 + 39% of taxable income above R613,600
R782, 201 – R1,656,600 R229,089  + 41% of taxable income above R782,200
R1,656,601 and above R587,593 + 45% of taxable income above R1,656,600

It’s clear that your take-home pay would be much higher in the UK than in South Africa, even when taking tax into account.

However, living costs in the UK are higher than in South Africa.

An apartment in London will be more expensive than an equivalently-sized flat in Johannesburg.

This means it is possible that you might still be able to do more with your salary in South Africa than in the UK.

Now read: Software developer salaries in South Africa in 2021

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IT salaries – South Africa vs UK