It pays to join a union

Robert Laing

Robert Laing

If you don't get a nearly 12percent salary increase this year, it's time to join a union.

Workers who belong to trade unions earn three times more than workers who are not represented, research commissioned by the United Association of South Africa (Uasa) found.

Titled "What are you worth?", the annual salary survey by economist Mike Schüssler found the key to better pay is education.

Matriculants average double the earnings of people who have not finished school. Graduating from university in turn gets you five times the salary of just a matric. A post graduate degree earns nearly eight times more than a matric.

Even though spending years at university will reduce your paid working life, the long-term advantages are high.

Schüssler said: "Ignoring inflation, matric lifetime earnings will be around R4million at current average salaries while post grads will earn nearly R24million even though that post grad works eight years less. Someone with no schooling will earn just over R1,15million in their lifetime - assuming they work 50 years."

The advantage of an education over a working life is probably even higher because somebody without schooling is more likely to suffer spells of unemployment.

Race is the next biggest earnings differentiator after education level, with whites averaging five times more than blacks.

"Education again is probably the reason for this. The earning power of black South Africans was hobbled by apartheid, and this country's education system remains a problem," Schüssler said.

The bigger the company you work for, the bigger your pay tends to be. Large corporations pay more than small business, with government employees averaging the highest salaries, Schüssler found.

Schüssler forecast salary increases would average nearly 12percent this year.

Salary increases tend to be around 2percent higher than the official inflation rate, which is now more than 10percent.