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SA professionals need side jobs to keep up with rising cost of living

Employers need to listen and play an active role

Almost a fifth of professional workers (18%) are resorting to side hustles for the first time in their lives.
Almost a fifth of professional workers (18%) are resorting to side hustles for the first time in their lives.

A study conducted by an employment agency has found that almost half of SA professionals feel underpaid and have now started side hustles to keep up with the cost of living.

Global recruiter Robert Walters South Africa surveyed 2,000 professional workers in SA and found that 48% of them do not feel that their pay is an accurate representation of the work they do.

Researchers further found that 18% have resorted to other means for additional income for the first time,  which includes credit cards, pay-day loans and additional work.

Megan Prosser, senior manager at Robert Walters, said the findings were not surprising given the price of essential goods had been rising across the world. Prosser said employers felt their hands were tied and that beating inflation was unrealistic.

“We have seen a significant rise in professionals taking on side hustles as a way of arming against increased costs and a looming recession, evolving what was once a passion into pay. Historically, side jobs have been considered something of a distraction by employers, however, additional jobs can also be a great way of developing new skills, which could actually benefit the primary employer.

“The crucial advice here for employers is to listen and play an active role in alleviating some of the external pressures on their employees. If this can’t be done via a pay increase, then this can be achieved by encouraging resourcefulness in an economically strenuous time,” said Prosser.

When workers were asked about pay in relation to cost of living, only 5% said that they had a generous disposable income, with 31% saying they have to live sensibly to cover their cost of living. Less than a fifth make enough to warrant savings. Worryingly a quarter of professionals (24%) live “pay cheque to pay cheque.

Almost a fifth of professional workers (18%) are resorting to side hustles for the first time in their lives.

“Traditionally side or weekend jobs have been viewed as a potential distraction by employers, with some companies fearing that additional work can decrease productivity in a professional’s primary role.

“Times are changing and in fact we are learning that employers need to be flexible, and that leaders must be empathetic to the fact that, for some, a side hustle is not just a passion project, but a necessity, Prosser said.

She said that employers should now have an open mind about their employees extra activities and must encourage them to bring entrepreneurship to their daily job.

Prosser proposed the following for employers:

  • Introduce flexible start and finish times, to help employees avoid the cost of peak travel, and to help them gain back extra time in their day;
  • Allow staff to develop their side hustles outside of work hours, relieving some pressure in multiple ways;
  • Create a reward structure, which ties into the cost of living – for example streaming subscriptions, food vouchers, or flight allowances; and
  • Offer enhanced training programmes and if employees are not happy with pay, show them the clear route to earning more within the company.


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