Software developer salaries in South Africa vs The World

The global COVID-19 pandemic has made it far more difficult to emigrate and work overseas, but it does not mean South African IT professionals are barred from working for international companies.

As more companies embrace remote work, it may be easier in certain cases to find remote positions at international IT businesses.

South Africa has been suffering a severe “brain drain” for many years, with skilled professionals leaving the country in favour of better prospects overseas.

Many cite security, a desire to travel, better living conditions, and quality of life as the key reasons for their emigration.

Additionally, skilled IT professionals can earn a lot more overseas than they can in South Africa, although this is balanced to varying degrees by the higher cost of living.

We compared the average salaries for software developers in South Africa with a number of countries that are common destinations for South African emigrants.

IT salary comparison

We used data from Where Did We Go? – a website that collects data about South Africans who have moved overseas – to determine which countries to include in this comparison.

The following countries are included in this comparison:

  • South Africa
  • United States of America
  • Canada
  • Netherlands
  • United Kingdom
  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • Ireland
  • United Arab Emirates

We used figures from Indeed, PayScale, and Glassdoor to compare average pay in South Africa and other countries for the broad position of “software developer”.

International salaries are listed in their local currency and are converted to South African rand using the exchange rate at the time of writing.

The average software developer salaries for South African emigration hotspots are below.

Software Developer Salary Comparison
Country Salary South African Rand
USA $71,909 R1,102,953
Netherlands €44,620 R825,340
Australia AU$69,451 R817,105
Canada C$66,732 R800,572
Ireland €38,405 R710,262
New Zealand NZ$64,684 R704,715
United Kingdom £31,019 R643,895
United Arab Emirates AED104,482 R436,177
South Africa R304,667 R304,667

Cost of living

It is apparent that software developers in South Africa can earn far more when working overseas, although it is also important to note that the taxes and cost of living in these countries are different.

For example, while the average salary in the United Arab Emirates is only slightly higher than that of South Africa relative to other countries, there is no income tax levied on that amount.

Countries such as the USA, Canada, and the United Kingdom have variable tax rates depending on the income you earn.

South Africa has a tax rate comparable to many of the other countries on this list, but the cost of living in South Africa is a lot cheaper.

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

The latest Big Mac Index for 2021 shows that the South African Rand is significantly undervalued compared with the US dollar, meaning it is far cheaper to live in South Africa than in other countries.

The Big Mac Index is an initiative created by The Economist that aims to measure whether currencies are priced at their “correct” level.

It is based on the theory of purchasing-power parity (PPP) – the notion that, in the long run, exchange rates should move towards the rate that would equalise the prices of an identical basket of goods and services (in this case, a Big Mac burger) in any two countries.

The table below shows the GDP-adjusted percentage of how much each of the currencies compared above is under or overvalued against the US dollar.

Currency Over/under-valued
Euro +12.6%
Canadian Dollar +8.5%
New Zealand Dollar +4.1%
United States Dollar 0
Australian Dollar -4.3%
British Pound -5.8%
United Arab Emirates Dirham -12.3%
South African Rand -32.5%

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