• The best paid government jobs are to be found in the Department of International Relations and Co-operation.
  • The average annual salary in the department will exceed R1 million by 2020. 
  • The Department of Higher Education pays the lowest salaries.


If you are so inspired by new President Cyril Ramaphosa’s national call to action and his #sendme message in the recent State of the Nation address, that you feel an overwhelming desire to apply for a job in the civil service, but still want to earn a decent salary, read on.

Before you chuck in your private sector job to fulfil your dream of becoming a firefighter or a police officer, hit pause for a moment. 

This is a big decision. 

Bear in mind also we are talking salaries, not the amount of price gouging and tender-rigging you think you can get away with. That’s in the past. Hopefully.

The annual budget speech shows just a fraction of the story around the country’s finances. The broader budget documents published this week, contain a treasure trove of information including which departments pay staff best.

The best paid government jobs are to be found in the Department of International Relations and Co-operation (Dirco). Turns out people who represent the country’s image abroad are paid the big bucks and their average annual income will exceed R1 million by 2020. This year, Treasury is budgeting for an average annual package for Dirco staff of R861,000 a year. This is set to grow to R1.134 million in three years. It may be tough to catch a break, though, as they are also budgeting for a small headcount reduction over that time. You are also likely to be in a long queue looking for access to all that overseas travel and foreign allowances that come with the job.

Engineers are in short supply across the economy and government pays them a decent wage to keep them.

Some of government’s smaller departments pay quite well and you can expect an average R960,000 to R1 million a year at the Department of Communications and at Science and Technology respectively by 2020. 

Interestingly, the National Treasury comes only fourth in terms of average pay and the median wage there is expected to grow from R732,000 a year presently to R900,000 over three years.

Not all civil service jobs are created equal, however. The lowest paid departments in which to work include the Department of Higher Education (universities pay their own professors and staff), where the average wage amounts to about R311,000 a year - which is less than the amount paid by the defence force (R420,000) and police (R428,000) a year.

The big question you need to ask is whether government will be able to keep affording the massive above-inflation increases it is budgeting for. Expect the screws to tighten in future budgets, but for now, the public sector remains a lucrative place to spend your days.

Whitfield presents The Money Show on 702 and Cape Talk Daily, Taking Stock on eNCA and is a public speaker on the political economy.

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