Tito Mboweni at the podium.
Finance minister Tito Mboweni, delivering the medium-term budget policy statement on Wednesday. (GCIS)
  • A "small fraction" of long-term government employees have seen real salary increases of more than 1,000 percent over a decade, according to Treasury data.
  • Most public servants are long-term employees.
  • That may have something to do with the fact that even the average government employee has – adjusted for inflation – seen a salary increase of 45% over the past 14 years.
  • Here is how the public wage bill spun so out of control, according to an analysis in the medium-term budget policy statement.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

A "small fraction" of those who work for the government have seen salary increases of more than 1,000% over the past 10 years, the National Treasury says – after the numbers are adjusted for inflation.

Although those civil servants are at the far end of the spectrum, very few government employees have been left behind. Measured over periods of 10 and 15 years, virtually every single one of the hundreds of thousands of people who work for government have seen salary increases far in excesses of inflation.

And that may help why employment with the state is so sticky.

If you ignore the SA National Defence Force, the Treasury says in an analysis appended to the medium-term budget policy statement (MTBPS) released on Wednesday, 75% of all public servants have been employed by the state since 2010.

Of those 830,000 people, only 5% have seen decreases in their salaries when corrected for inflation. The rest have seen the buying power of their earnings increase significantly, with real salary increases of between:

  • 0% and 19%, for 5% of the group
  • at least 44%, for half of the group
  • at least 71%, for another quarter of the group, and
  • above 1,000% for that "small fraction" of employees.

The overall effect is that the average state salary tripled since 2006, which equals an increase of 45% once adjusted for inflation.

In total, Treasury says, the 1.3 million employees of the state cost R567 billion in compensation in the last financial year – which means 11% of SA's total GDP is now spent in that way.

"Remuneration for employees of national and provincial governments tends to be higher than that of private-sector workers," says Treasury.

"More than 95 per cent of public servants earn more than the bottom 50 per cent of registered taxpayers."

Continued above-inflation growth in public-sector wages are unsustainable, Treasury says. 

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