Whenever we have to talk about the pricing of essential and perceived essential services in Zimbabwe, the conversations get heated. This is simply because Zimbabweans are earning too little. Meaning whatever price hike, however justified, however tiny, will take a service beyond the reach of many.
See, if I busted my knee and needed a knee replacement that would cost about $10,000. Say the surgeon felt pity on me and said I could pay just $1,000. That would still be too expensive for me and most Zimbabweans.
According to the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (Zimstat), 61% of paid employees earned less than ZW$100,000 per month in Q2 2023. The official exchange rate at the end of that quarter was around 1:5740 whilst the black market rate stood at around 1:7900.
That means 61% of employed Zimbabweans earned less than US$17.50 a month using the official rate at the time. Or US$12.66 a month using the black market rate.
Now, if you have never been in that kind of position, you tend to question those figures. However, as someone who once earned about $10 a month for months waiting for salary schedules to be updated to reflect the loss of value of a Zimbabwean currency, I know this is real.
Zimstat surveyed over 12,000 households and you can go dig deeper into their methodology if you’re so inclined. It’s all in the Quarterly Labour Force Survey Report for Q2 2023.
Back to the survey findings. 61% of Zimbabweans are pulling in less than $17.50 a month. They have to pay rentals, buy food, pay school fees and everything else a family needs with that US17.50.
The math doesn’t math and yet people still survive. The side hustle has become a necessity, even for those not entreprenurially gifted.
The survey also shows that most of those earning more than that are still earning peanuts. In fact, 93.6% of employed Zimbabweans were pulling in less than ZW$550,000 per month in Q2 2023. That was at most US$95.82 or US$69.62 using the black market rate.
Make it make sense. How is this country still open? I’ll take you back to the knee replacement example above. How many people would be able to foot that $1,000 bill out of pocket? Only those with booming side hustles would be able to afford it.
Here is the full table:
All those Hilux-driving fatcats are in the 6.4%. However, I would argue that most in the group earning more than $96 do not earn that much more than that. I would argue that less than 1% earn more than US$1,000 a month.
This is ridiculous. Anyway, here is how much people are earning in different sectors. You might want to think about gaining skills required in the higher-paying sectors.
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