It is quite difficult to collect good data on wages and salaries. For the purpose of our latest Labour Force Survey, data on wages and salaries were collected only in respect of paid employees. Nonetheless, our survey conducted during October 2014 indicated to us that the average wage in Namibia is N$6 626 per month. This is gross income, meaning income before deductions.
Incomes vary though. Namibia is known to be one of the most unequal societies in the world hence some average wages are very high whilst others are very low.
For example, according to the Labour Force Survey mentioned above, the highest wages are paid in the mining and quarrying industry. The lowest are paid in the private households industry/sector.
The mining and quarrying sectors pay an average wage of N$21 749 per month, way above the average of N$6 626, whilst the employees in private households are paid an average of $1 168 per month, which is way below the average.
The human health and social work activities industry pays the second highest average wage of N$18 869 per month whilst employees in the agriculture, forestry and fishing industries receive an average wage of N$2 114 per month.
When one looks at the electricity and related industries average wage, which is at N$17 121 per month, one might assume that wages in Namibia are high.
However, these above average figures are mainly found in industries that do not employ a lot of people. For example, the mining and quarrying industry, which pays the highest average wage, employs only two percent of the total labour force.
On the other hand, the agriculture, forestry and fishing sectors, which have the second lowest wage average, employs thirty-one percent of the total labour force.
This means a much larger portion of employees fall under this wage bracket than those to be found in the mining and quarrying industry. The same is true for the human health and social work activities industry which only makes up 2.4 percent of the total labour force. They pay the second highest average wage though. When we look at the electricity and related industries we also observe much higher than average wages although this industry employs less than one percent of the labour force.
Most other workers are found in the wholesale, retail and trade industries, private households and in construction. These three industries absorb around twenty-seven percent of the labour force. The incomes paid in these industries though, is only N$4 474 per month for the wholesale, retail and trade industries, N$4 140 in the construction sector and a meagre N$ 1168 per month for the private households sector. These average wages are significantly below the average wage per month. What do these figures tell us? They say a lot. The first thing is they give us a glimpse into what resources people have to make ends meet. In an earlier article I broke down how those with less disposable income use their money. What became clear is that they use it on the basis needs of food, shelter and clothing. After that they do not have much left.
On the contrary, those that are well off use much smaller portions of their incomes on the basic needs of food, shelter and clothing. An explanation to this is that they have disposable income left to cater for other things besides basic needs.
At the moment the Namibia Statistics Agency is busy conducting a year-long survey on Namibian Household Income and Expenditure. This survey will tell us exactly how our people make ends meet; what their incomes are and how they spend that income.
• Iipumbu Sakaria is the Deputy Director for Strategic Communications at the NSA."