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Johannesburg - South Africans take-home pay for last month declined 0.8 percent due to nominal salary terms growth for the period being lower than the month’s inflation rate of 6.3 percent.

This is according to bank payments clearing house, BankservAfrica’s Disposable Salaries Index (BDSI) and Private Pensions Index (BPPI) report released yesterday.

The month was the ninth consecutive month of declines of salaries in real-terms but the smallest decline yet.

BankservAfrica’s head of Information Services Caroline Belrose said while South African salaries grew 5.7percent in nominal terms on a year-on-year basis, take home salaries declined 0.8 percent last month.

“It appears that take-home pay has reached its lowest rate of increase in the four months leading up to February 2017. However, with inflation heading lower and future pay increases now based on 2016 high inflation levels, one can expect that employee salaries will fare better in real terms in 2017,” Belrose said.

The company said average real disposable salaries reached R13 980 in February. This was the highest since September last year when real seasonally adjusted salaries reached R14 102.

BankservAfrica sampled 3 million people.

Economists chief economist Mike Schüssler said the lower inflation and the expected salary increases from the formal sector would lift consumer spending by the middle of the year at the latest.

“The possibility of higher real salary increases in the formal sector might result in some recovery in disposable salaries from April, the time period when civil servants’ inflation adjusted pay increases are realised.

Read also: SAfricans are taking home less money than before

“This could provide a small but significant boost in real take-home pay,” said Schüssler.

The government in 2015 signed a three-year pay deal with unions representing nurses, teachers and other state servants. The wage bill was expected to increase by an average of 6.6percent in each of the three years through March next year.

Schüssler said the constant decline in disposable salaries had taken its toll on retail sales, particularly car and home sales.

BankservAfrica said pension payments showed no signs of real growth on a year-on-year basis. The company said BPPI grew at 6.3 percent last month - the same as inflation. But real private pensions reached a peak in September last year with the average pension being R6 605 for the month.

The company gauged 633000 monthly payments going through its system that it had identified as pension payments.

Belrose said, in contrast to the positive outlook on disposable salaries, there were signs of private pensions slowing down.