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Engineering Abroad - the Facts

22 February 2016, 11:20
Article refers. The author contends that South African engineers earn more than their Australian / UK / US counterparts. The contention deserves rebuttal.

Firstly, I dispute the numbers. R487k for a graduate engineer with 20 years' experience, and presumably either ECSA or GCC registration, is paltry. The actual salary for that level of competence is probably double. Perhaps the study has looked at all levels of engineering (graduate, technician, artisan), and averaged them out? In which case, the title is a misnomer - perhaps "technical", rather than "engineering", would be more appropriate.

Ludicrously, the study states that a UK technical person earns the equivalent of R215k. Or GBP9,300 per annum. The minimum wage in the UK is GBP 6.70 per hour. That's GBP1,150 per month for 172 hours worked. Or GBP13,800 per annum, which makes the author's figure look rather silly.

A cursory glance at an Australian recruitment site shows a state engineering job paying AU$50 per hour, plus Super. ("Super" is Australia's compulsory retirement savings scheme, equivalent to employer contribution to pension.) At R11/AU$, that's the equivalent of R1,135,200 per annum. Jobs at consultancies and mining firms pay considerably more.

Further, the South African engineer cannot depend on the state for health, the education of his/her children, security, or public transport. In SA, s/he is obliged to personally fund medical aid (R6k+/month plus co-payments when actually making use of private services), private school fees (R120k/annum/child), private security (R500/month minimum), and operate two vehicles.

By contrast, as a consulting engineer in Melbourne, I would have access to a safe, efficient, cost-effective tram system to get me to work, and I'd only need a little runabout at home, for the school run, and weekend use. Quality state medical and schooling - free. Security - not required, they have a police force that works without the need for an upfront activation fee, if you know what I mean.

That leaves a greater portion of the salary package available for travel, entertainment, and the ubiquitous Australian housing market. South African companies are also quite quick to strictly adhere to 15 days leave per year (BCEAct minimum), where professionals abroad are entitled to much more generous leave allowances. Six weeks in the UK, typically.

Point is though... if you would like to remain in SA, by all means, do so. It's a great place to live, if you can work around the negatives. But do not deny yourself the chance to live, work and ENJOY abroad, on the basis that you will earn less than at home. Because that's just rubbish.

Disclaimer: All articles and letters published on MyNews24 have been independently written by members of News24's community. The views of users published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24. News24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received.


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