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Developer Salaries 2023: Cape Town vs. Johannesburg

24 October 2023 , by Josh Nel

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The tech hiring market has cooled significantly since its historic highs in 2021, with many companies announcing layoffs and hiring freezes. As a result, companies still hiring may not be able to offer the same level of salaries common during the post-pandemic boom. If you’re scaling your team, navigating these conversations in a changing hiring landscape is important to ensure you can offer the best to prospective team members.

Using data from hires made on the OfferZen platform, here are our insights into what it costs to hire a software engineer in Cape Town and Johannesburg over the past year.

Software Developer Salaries 2023_Cape Town vs Johannesburg_Inner article@2x.png

Average salaries for junior developers in Johannesburg have stagnated

Last year, we found that the average salary for developers with less than two years of experience in Cape Town increased by 15.8% from 2021. This year, they’ve seen their average salaries decrease by 20%, giving them an average monthly salary of R24,897.

Juniors in Johannesburg, by contrast, have seen a slight 0.8% decrease in their average salaries.

This gives them an average annual salary of R26 560, 6.3% more than their counterparts in Cape Town, making Johannesburg the best-paying city for junior developers in South Africa.

Average salaries for entry-level software developers

Developers with two to four years of experience see their salaries drop across the board

Developers with at least two years of experience under their belts have also seen their average salaries decrease over the past year:

Developers in Johannesburg have seen the biggest decreases, with their average salaries dropping 16.1% to an average of R32 754.

Juniors in Cape Town in this experience bracket saw a 7.9% decrease to R37 285, but still earn 13.6% more than their counterparts in Johannesburg.

Average salaries for junior software developers

Developers with four to six years of experience have had more luck: While intermediate developers in Johannesburg have seen an average decrease of 0.6%, those based in Cape Town see a modest 0.5% rise.

Average salaries for intermediate software developers

Despite this modest rise, intermediate developers based in Cape Town are still 8.3% more than those in Johannesburg.

Senior developers in Cape Town and Johannesburg see their salaries decrease

Average salaries for senior software developers

Despite the demand for senior developers remaining healthy, they’re not immune to the challenges currently facing the tech industry:

Developers with at least six years of experience in Cape Town have seen their average monthly salaries decrease by roughly 7.9% to R58 788.

This puts them 4% behind developers in Johannesburg, who saw a 4% decrease to an average salary of R61 233.

Fortunately, this pattern changes for developers with more than ten years of experience.

Salary growth picks up once developers pass the ten-year mark

Average salaries for senior software developers with more than ten years of experience

Capetonian developers with over ten years of experience saw a 2.1% increase in their average monthly salary in 2022 to R84 623.

Seniors in Johannesburg have seen a healthy 9.3% increase bringing their average monthly salary to R88 202. This gives them a 4.1% lead over seniors in the Mother City.

Developers in Johannesburg have the most buying power

In 2022, we compared the cost of living in Cape Town, Pretoria, and Johannesburg using Numbeo data. The cost of living includes rent, groceries, restaurants and consumer prices. We found that developers in Pretoria have 8.5% more buying power than those in Cape Town and 2.2% more than those in Johannesburg.

In 2023, the buying power gap between Johannesburg and Cape Town widened. Johannesburg developers now have 3.9% more spending power than those in Cape Town.

These differences in cost of living affect salary conversations between developers and potential employers.

For example, Cape Town’s higher cost of living means that developers there will expect a higher salary base, making it more expensive to offer a standout salary in the city.

On the other hand, Johannesburg’s lower cost of living can make it more affordable to offer candidates a standout offer. However, this might be offset by their higher average salaries, especially at higher levels of seniority.

It’s worth remembering that there’s more to a compensation package than take-home pay. A comprehensive benefits package, such as medical aid or special allowances, can offset a higher cost of living and make a job offer stand out.

Average Software Engineer Salaries Adjusted for Cost of Living

Years of experience Johannesburg Cape Town (adjusted)
0-2 R26,560 R25,569
2-4 R32,754 R31,532
4-6 R47,571 R45,796
6-10 R61,233 R58,948
10+ R88,202 R84,911

Keep in mind

The insights of this article are based on OfferZen platform data and represent developers who were placed on the OfferZen platform, not the entire industry. We’ve also narrowed the focus of this article to include only salaries of software developers rather than roles like data scientists, product designers, and product managers also placed on OfferZen.

We’ve excluded Pretoria from this year’s analysis as there was not enough data to ensure that the figures reflected changes in the city.

OfferZen is a curated marketplace where we pre-screen candidates for quality. This means that the data from our platform will vary from other resources like our State of the Developer Nation report, which is based on survey responses from over 4500 South African tech community developers.

In this article, “salary” refers to the gross monthly salary (before tax) developers on OfferZen were hired at when they signed their contract. It excludes other incentives like equity or bonuses. Our platform data only reflects new placements made during the year.

Last but not least, it is always important to keep in mind that every individual’s context is different. At the end of the day, salary is a personal conversation that should take place between employee and employer. It should consider the nature of work, perks and other contextual factors like tech stack or industry.

If you have any questions or suggestions for future analysis, please leave a comment below. Ensure you’ve subscribed to our newsletter for more articles like this one.

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Hiring teams can make unlimited hires across all the roles on OfferZen, saving up to 50% compared to traditional recruitment costs.

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