Commuting in Gauteng can eat almost half of your salary

Two years ago every press release we received seemed to talk about the “new normal” of working from home. There were talks of increased productivity as employees found a new sort of balance between work and their personal lives.

But it seems that once the threat of the pandemic was no longer looming thanks to wide spread vaccinations and a general air of being fed up with being locked in our homes, that new normal vanished.

Very soon, offices were reopening and while employees felt that working from home was working, decision makers seemingly didn’t agree.

Now, however, there is a new argument to be made for working from home or at least a hybrid working arrangement. That reason is the petrol price in South Africa.

With a litre of Unleaded 93 now costing R23.94, South Africans are now paying more for fuel than ever before. How badly does this affect South Africans?

To find out we used the AA Vehicle Rates calculator for a Volkswagen Polo Vivo 1.4 Trendline, which was the best selling passenger vehicle in 2021.

The tricky part here is finding data for the average commute of a South African. As such we’ve narrowed our scope to Gauteng as this is where Hypertext is based and where we could find sufficient data.

While the CSIR publishes reports from the Regional Gauteng Household Travel Survey, these reports don’t include average distances but rather the time it takes to commute.

We have however found this analysis published on the South African Transport Conference’s website [PDF] which was published in 2017. Unfortunately, the data it uses comes from 2013 which is rather old. That having been said, the changes noted between 2001 and 2013 are nominal and we feel we can use this data with a mild degree of confidence to illustrate our point.

That report found that the average commuting distance from home to work (that is one direction) was:

  • For the Urban Core residents – 27.1km
  • For Suburban residents – 27.1km
  • For Township residents – 38.8km.

With an AA Rate of R3.46 per kilometre this means that, assuming our distance data is still relevant, Gauteng motorists would be paying the following for their commute from home to work this month:

  • Urban core residents –  R1 969.08
  • Suburban residents – R1 969.08
  • Township residents – R2 819.20.

Once we double these figures (as the above only accounts for the commute from home to work) the figures become alarming.

We should point out these figures assume your car is brand new. These figures also don’t take traffic into account which could see you spending hours idling fuel away. Finally, the amounts above were calculated by assuming a five day work week. Weekends and public holidays were not included in our calculations.

At the top end, Gauteng residents could be paying as much as a R5 638.40 just to get to and from work every month.

According to data from the Bankserv Africa Take-home Pay Index, the average real take-home pay for South Africans in December 2021 was R12 463. At worst then, a Gauteng resident could be spending 45 percent of their salary solely on getting to work.

We’ll speak frankly, this is madness.

While we understand that governmental failings are largely to blame for this situation, the fact is that things don’t look to be changing for the better from a state perspective.

As such, it’s time to have an earnest conversation about working from home or at the very least, adopting a hybrid working environment.

What makes this all the more shocking is the instance from decision makers that employees must work from an office even if their jobs can easily be done from anywhere.

Our data is very broad and as such, we urge you to conduct these calculations for yourself to get a picture of just how much your commute is costing you. With that in mind, have a frank discussion with your employer about how you can adapt your working structure and whether hybrid working is a viable alternative.

For companies, the technology needed to transition to a more digital first organisational structure exists and with South Africans facing rising costs everywhere we turn, it may be time to bring some compassion to the negotiation table.

[Image – CC 0 Pixabay]


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