Income, pensions beating inflation for now - index

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Cape Town - While the South African economic outlook for 2016 is bearish, banked incomes are still telling a positive story, Mike Schüssler, chief economist at Economists dotcoza, said on Monday.

The BankservAfrica Disposable Salaries Index (BDSI) and BankservAfrica Private Pensions Index (BPPI) - seen as excellent indicators of current retail spending and consumer behaviour by Schüssler - both remain positive for now.

“According to the data seen passing through the BankservAfrica payment system last month, the average take-home pay in the formal sector has increased by 8.7% compared to last year. This means that, despite the inflationary increase, take-home pay also rose by about 2.3% above the inflation rate to an average of R13 511 in January 2016,” explained Dr Caroline Belrose, head of knowledge and risk services at BankservAfrica.

Banked pensions on average increased by 6.9% on a year ago to R6 131.  

“The increase in pensions in the last two months has been at the same rate, but both are the slowest nominal increases since July 2014. Pension increases were still higher than inflation, but only by about 0.6%,” said Belrose.

However, the ability of salaries to stay ahead of inflation is expected to come under pressure as higher taxes and so-called bracket creep are likely to have a negative impact on take-home pay increases.

READ: Pension increases keep beating inflation

“By definition, ‘typical take-home pay’ or ‘typical bankable salary’ refers to the money that the person in the middle of a large group gets paid into a bank account. Instead of relying on the average for that group, this typical amount is often a better reflection of the changes in income, as the average may be pushed up due to a small percentage of highly-paid earners getting large increases,” explained Schüssler.

Over the last two years – apart from a couple of anomalous months – the typical pension has outpaced the average pension by an average of 1.9%. The typical bankable pension has risen to R4 335 per month, nearly R855 more than in January 2014.

Meanwhile, the typical salary reached R9 894 per month. It is, however, important to bear in mind that this number may be slightly disproportionately higher due to sales commissions that get paid in January after the December retail boom, according to Schüssler.

Although pensioners in this dataset still receive only about 44% of the average take-home salary, the typical pension has increased at a faster rate than the take-home salary for the past 11 months.

“It will also be interesting to see the role that the stock market has on pension pay-outs as we continue into 2016 with a weak equity market. The data suggests that pensions change on past market performance, so weak markets may still have a delayed impact on pensions,” concluded Schüssler.

ALSO READ: Hold on to your formal sector job

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