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High cost of dying in South Africa

In South Africa, the average funeral costs 13% of the average salary. Picture: AP

In South Africa, the average funeral costs 13% of the average salary. Picture: AP

Published Aug 22, 2020


Durban - South Africa is the fourth-most expensive country in which to die.

Average funeral costs, compared with people's salaries, are higher only in Japan, China and Germany, according to work carried out by Britain-based insurance company SunLife.

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It said the global average price for a send-off was 10% of an average salary.

“The average cost of a funeral in South Africa is about R26875, which is 13% of the average salary according to the latest figures from the OECD Better Life Index,” read a SunLife statement.

The OECD Better Life Index, created in May 2011 by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development after a decade of work on this issue, is an attempt to bring together internationally comparable measures of well-being.

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Funeral parlours in KZN told the Independent on Saturday that most funerals they provided cost in the region of half of R26875, although some influenced the average by costing up to R70000.

“They are more like R15000 on average,” said Christopher Moodley of Pinetown Funeral Services. Others said they were used to providing funerals even cheaper.

One funeral parlour employee, who did not wish to be named, said: “A woman came in the other day wanting funeral insurance cover. I offered her a R100-a month premium that would cover her for a R25000 funeral. But she said she wanted cover for a funeral that would cost double that amount.”

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He added that owing to a “culturally rich” approach to funerals among many Africans, it was common to see many poor people chip in for an expensive funeral.

Coffins were a significant cost when it came to burials versus cremations, said Cindy Naicker of Wyebank Funeral Parlour.

Josh Gilbert, strategic operations manager of Oakleigh Funerals in Pietermaritzburg, said that on a business trip to Ireland, he found out that coffins were significantly more expensive there than in South Africa.

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The survey said the average Irish funeral cost £4102 (R92661). However, that was only marginally above the 10% global average of a payer's salary, at 10.8%.

Gilbert added that there was an increasing move towards cremations. He also said that in this winter of the Covid-19 lockdown, he had been “slightly busier” and credited this to the early, swift action taken by the government.

The country listed third on the “most expensive to die” list is Germany. Japan tops the list at 68.3% at 3 million yen, nearly R500000.

China and Japan are not representative of Asia. In India, a funeral costs a mere 2% of an average salary.

Russia is the cheapest country for funerals, costing only 1.3% of the average salary - 20200 in roubles, which translates to R4742.

The Independent on Saturday