SA top salaries slip

Anton Ferreira

Anton Ferreira

South Africa's top managers - with the signal exception of Tito Mboweni - are slipping in the world rankings of well-paid executives.

Recent research by the international management consulting firm Hay Group shows that in the last year South Africa has dropped to 36th from 29th in terms of management pay packages.

"We're not badly off, but our position has declined," said Ginger Brown, the company's information business manager.

"If you look at who we're in range with, we're not too badly off.

We're in there with Australia, France, a bit above the US.

"I think the main thing is that when people look at jobs in other countries, they just look at the salary. Work in Australia for X amount of dollars - they forget to say 'pay rent in Australia and food and transport and insurance and childcare'."

The Hay Group's world pay report examines the average pay of a top executive, applies the relevant tax rate, and subtracts a generic cost of living measure in an attempt to establish the true purchasing power of salaries.

Brown said South Africa's lower ranking among the 51 countries measured was partly a result of domestic inflation and interest rates, and partly due to several countries being included in the survey for the first time and immediately taking some of the top spots.

Among them are Qatar - ranked first - Oman, Kuwait and Bahrain.

Bottom of the list are Finland and Sweden.

"If you look at some of the bottom ones, who have higher tax rates, it's an effect of that," Brown said.

"But what doesn't come into play is what you get in Sweden and Finland for your tax dollar compared to what you get in SA for your tax dollar. So the fact that we pay 30 percent, 40 percent and they pay 40 to 50 percent - I'm not getting what I would get in Sweden for my 40 to 50, that's for sure.

"I get potholed roads and school systems that are collapsing and no books."

Brown said South African executive salary increases were lagging behind inflation. "We expect to see greater increases at the beginning of next year."

She said the survey was done several months ago, and did not reflect what impact recent global financial turmoil might have on pay packages.

But she added: "It will probably affect the specialised people, dealers and brokers. But it doesn't matter what sector you're in, it matters what you do for a living.

"This particular study covers HR managers, IT managers, admin managers, whatever. Senior managers operate on a strategic level so they can go easily from a bank to SA Breweries to Nampak. They're a bit more cushioned than the rest of us."

Brown said the financial services crisis, which has seen tens of thousands of redundancies in North America and Europe, could go some way towards easing the global shortage of executives.

Mark Gray, a director of the human resources technology and marketing firm Graylink, said employers should be alive to the recruiting possibilities that came with a period of high job losses.

"You see all the guys who've just been retrenched at Lehman Brothers walking out the office with all their personal belongings and you think, where do all those people go?

"They're very talented people who now have to go out and look for work. We're saying it's a great opportunity for an organisation to direct them to their own website and possibly convert them into their registered candidates."

Gray said companies might not want to hire new staff during the downturn, but it was the ideal time to persuade potential future recruits to upload their CVs to a company's careers website.