South Africa Still One of the Most Affordable Countries to Live and Work In

Three of South Africa’s major cities rank among the top 20 most affordable cities to live and work in on global scale

  • Despite recent downgrades and unemployment, South Africa’s costs of living in the country are still among the lowest in the world
  • Adzuna’s global data comparison highlights Canada as a possible better alternative for South Africans looking to relocate
  • Some cities offer a better chance at finding work due to more jobs available

South Africa still one of the most cost-effective destinations across the world, according to new research from job search engine Adzuna.

Cape Town, Thursday 26 November 2020 – Online job aggregator Adzuna, who has a presence in more than 16 countries across the world, recently compared salary data with that of jobs on offer and average rental costs for the world’s most prominent cities. South Africa came in as one of the most affordable destinations to live and work in with Port Elizabeth, Pretoria, Johannesburg, and Durban all falling under the top 20 countries offering the best value for money as far as rent versus salaries is concerned.

Despite its economy being downgraded by Moodys again in recent weeks, the country is still seen as a good destination by expats. South Africans currently spend anything between 17% and 24% of their salaries on rent. Compared to popular expat destinations like New Zealand (where rental costs can be as high as 58% of the average salary), SA still offers a very affordable general cost of living.

Most affordable cities to live and work in

According to the latest data released by Adzuna, the city of Palermo in Italy currently offers the most affordable cost of housing. On average, residents of Palermo contribute just 15.1% of their salaries toward their rental expenses every month.

Worth noting is that not every rented property is inhabited by only one salary-earner, which is especially the case in countries such as Brazil and India.

The Canadian city of Edmonton, South Africa’s Port Elizabeth, and Calgary (Canada) all offer incredibly competitive costs of accommodation with rent accounting for less than 18% of average salaries.


Country City SALARY vs RENT
IT Palermo 15,1%
CA Edmonton 17,3%
ZA Port Elizabeth 17,9%
CA Calgary 17,9%
AT Vienna 19,1%
AU Adelaide 19,2%
ZA Pretoria 19,7%
AU Perth 19,7%
AT Innsbruck 20,2%
AT Graz 20,6%
IT Torino 20,9%
ZA Johannesburg 21,6%
UK Birmingham 21,7%
AU Brisbane 21,9%
FR Toulouse 22,4%
AU Melbourne 23,2%
NL Eindhoven 24,0%
UK Manchester 24,0%
ZA Durban 24,2%

On the opposite side of the scale, accommodation costs in Salvador (Brazil), Los Angeles (USA), and Fortaleza (Brazil) are among the highest in the world with renters spending as much as 74% of their salaries on rent. Again, it must be noted that this often correlates with more people living together in a property.


Country City SALARY vs RENT
RU Moscow 54,5%
US San Francisco 56,1%
US New York 56,2%
PL Warsaw 57,6%
IN Mumbai 66,1%
BR Rio de Janeiro 67,8%
BR São Paulo 68,9%
BR Fortaleza 71,9%
US Los Angeles 73,1%
BR Salvador 74,2%

Jesse Green, country manager for Adzuna South Africa, comments: “It is reassuring to see that SA ranks among the most affordable cities to live and work in. With so many South Africans now considering the idea of immigrating to popular expat destinations like New Zealand or Australia, it’s imperative to consider how one’s living expenses might change once you relocate.”

Best paying cities across the world

For job seekers looking to relocate with the sole intention of earning a higher salary, Canada, Austria, Australia, and the USA currently offer the best options. However, it is essential to keep in mind that even though some of these cities are the best-paying destinations in the world, other factors such as the cost of living and available jobs play a detrimental role in how much a person is actually able to earn at the end of the day.


Country City Av salary EUR
US San Francisco €5 522,37
AT Vienna €5 218,00
AT Innsbruck €5 150,00
CA Calgary €5 013,33
US Chicago €4 849,60
AU Perth €4 565,06
CA Edmonton €4 426,67
AU Sydney €4 336,90
US New York €4 335,24
AT Graz €4 293,75

Adzuna compared average salary data in Euros (€) to make the data easy to work with on a global scale. Edmonton, one of the most popular expat cities in Canada, not only offers some of the highest salaries, but it also ranked 2nd in Adzuna’s comparison of salaries versus rent.

Even though South Africa provides exceptional value for money as far as accommodation is considered, it didn’t make it into the top 10 in terms of average salaries, which for makes it less attractive for those who pay rentals below the average.

Destinations with the most job opportunities

South Africa is experiencing one of its highest unemployment figures in decades, which means that SA is not the best country to consider as far as job security and employment opportunities go.


Country City City population Vacancies POP vs JOBS
FR Lyon 516 092 24 078 4,67%
NL Utrecht 358 000 10 640 2,97%
NL Eindhoven 234 000 5 539 2,37%
FR Paris 2 187 526 51 035 2,33%
DE Munich 1 260 391 28 563 2,27%
US New York 9 107 525 203 442 2,23%
RU Saint Petersburg 5 398 000 114 759 2,13%
DE Frankfurt 650 000 13 586 2,09%
FR Toulouse 479 553 9 967 2,08%
NL Rotterdam 624 000 12 942 2,07%

France appears to have a much less competitive job market than most other countries, and at the time of writing, Lyon had four jobs on offer for every active job seeker in the city. The higher the percentage of employment opportunities per population, the higher your chances of finding a job within that city. Lyon was the only city in the world that had this many active opportunities on offer.

The Netherlands and Germany also tend to offer great employment opportunities with some of their major cities boasting two jobs per active job seeker.

Final Thoughts

Even though South Africa does not provide the most job opportunities or the highest salaries, it is still one of the most affordable countries for expats to live and work in based on the average cost of living and accommodation expenses.

Unlike destinations such as New Zealand’s Auckland and Wellington (where rent is between 45% and 47% of the average salary), South Africans still only spend between 17% and 24% of their income on housing.

For South Africans considering the idea of immigration, it might be safer to steer away from the most popular destinations like New Zealand, the UK and Australia, and instead consider options like Canada that offers competitive average salaries as well as reasonable costs of living.