Living in New Zealand vs South Africa [2024 Guide]

Every year thousands of South Africans immigrating to New Zealand in hopes of building a better life here. But is living in New Zealand really that great, or should you maybe stay back in South Africa?

Living in New Zealand is better than living in South Africa in many aspects. New Zealand offers one of the highest quality of life on the planet. That said, South Africa has its advantages like low cost of living, great climate, diverse nature, and wildlife.

In this article, I compare living in New Zealand vs South Africa to give a perspective to someone moving to New Zealand from SA. However, this overview is also helpful if you are thinking of traveling or relocating to one of these places.

Should you move to New Zealand from South Africa?

This decision might be obvious for some, but others are considering all the points that go between living in New Zealand vs South Africa.

In the past several years, there have been thousands of skilled South Africans moving to New Zealand.

According to Stats New Zealand, there were about 11,364 approved residencies among South Africans only between January 2022 and May 2022. The majority of people immigrate to New Zealand on a business or skilled worker visa. You can also learn how to become a New Zealand citizen.

People who move to New Zealand from South Africa have several reasons for relocation, but most of them just want a better future for their families. If you are emigrating from South Africa, be prepared to take a few steps back in your career. It can be challenging, especially mentally.

Moreover, many South Africans are used to a somewhat luxurious lifestyle back home. In New Zealand, everything costs at least twice as much, plus the labor is very expensive. That means people from SA can not afford to hire housekeepers and other things that are considered to be luxuries in NZ.

New Zealand is one of the safest, environmental and multicultural countries in the world, providing residents with a high quality of life. Safety is one of the main differences between South Africa and New Zealand, as SA is deemed to be the fifth most dangerous place in the world.

The 2022 Global Peace Index rated South Africa as the 145th country globally in regard to safety, while New Zealand was in the second position.

New Zealand puts a big focus on families and family life, making it one of the best countries to raise children. You will have an excellent work-life balance while living in NZ, as it prioritizes free time and family above money. There is a strong sense of community.

One of the main downsides of living in New Zealand is high house prices. Country scores very poorly when it comes to the affordability of housing among locals. Although, buying a home is still a better deal than renting.

New Zealand vs South Africa

New Zealand and South Africa are two far apart from each other countries, yet they share some cultural aspects.

South Africa is the most southern African country, with access to both the Atlantic and Indian oceans. It’s Africa’s third-largest economy and is one of the most visited places on the continent. SA is mostly popular for its nature, mountains, vineyards, wildlife, and cultural diversity.

While you may know South Africans as Caucasians, about 80% of its population is black African. The white population has its roots in England and the Netherlands, as their ancestors were settlers in the 17th century.

New Zealand was discovered by Polynesians, yet the majority of the local population have British, Scottish, Welsh, and Irish ancestors. So, theoretically, caucasian South Africans and New Zealanders have similar backgrounds.

Some important facts about South Africa that are different from New Zealand worth your consideration:

  • GDP is higher – the economy is larger – $419 vs $375 billion
  • Higher crime rates
  • A developing country
  • Higher unemployment rate 17.9% vs 3,3%
  • The same inflation rate of 7.2% for December 2022
  • Population below the poverty line – about 54%
  • Poor life expectancy – 65 vs 83 years
  • The HIV death rate is 310,000, or about 18% of the total population
  • High corruption

Quality of life

To compare the quality of life between the countries, we look at the results of the International Better Life Index from the OECD. They rank countries according to factors like safety, income, political stability, environment, housing, and much more.

Let’s see how they rate New Zealand and South Africa in the latest edition.

New Zealand

Overall, New Zealand ranks 10th worldwide for the quality of life, scoring highly for economic and political stability, safety, and the quality of its education system.  

Below you can see the quality of life indicators for New Zealand. The maximum score is 10.

  • Housing: 6,8
  • Income: 6,0
  • Jobs: 8,3
  • Community: 8,5
  • Education: 7,0
  • Environment: 8,1
  • Civic engagement: 7,5
  • Health: 9,2
  • Life satisfaction: 7,9
  • Safety: 7,3
  • Work-life balance: 4,9

Furthermore, the largest city, Auckland, was ranked 3rd in the Mercer Quality of Life index. The capital of New Zealand, Wellington, scored 15th.

From our view, New Zealand does great in factors like natural beauty & nature, weather, healthcare, political stability, safety, cultural diversity, tolerance of other races & cultures, and the amount of pollution.

Moreover, New Zealand outperforms in average income, jobs, education, life satisfaction, health, environmental quality, civic engagement, and life satisfaction. New Zealanders give a 7.3 grade regarding their general satisfaction with life.

New Zealand’s quality of life indicators, according to the Numbeo are:

Purchasing Power Index94.85High
Safety Index53.97Moderate
Healthcare Index71.05High
Climate Index96.35Very High
Cost of Living Index74.63High
Property Price to Income Ratio9.00Moderate
Traffic Commute Time Index31.36Low
Pollution Index24.23Low
Quality of Life Index177.17Very High
Source: www.numbeo.com

Learn more about the qualify of life in New Zealand in our YT video:

South Africa

South Africa isn’t known for its amazing quality of life, that’s probably why you are moving from there to New Zealand.

Globally, South Africa ranks 40th out of 71 countries that were measured regarding the quality of life. Comparing cities, Cape Town is ranked number one, offering the best quality of life. Globally, the city ranks 123rd overall, with an index score of 148.40.

Cape Town is followed by Durban (133rd), then Pretoria (147th), and finally Johannesburg (152nd).

South Africa had improved its scores for education, housing, water, electricity, and other services. However, it significantly underperforms in income, jobs, education, health, environmental quality, social connections, civic engagement, safety, and life satisfaction.

Below you can see the quality of life indicators for South Africa:

  • Housing: 2,6
  • Income: 0,1
  • Jobs: 0,0
  • Community: 5,3
  • Education: 1,0
  • Environment: 1,4
  • Civic engagement: 3,9
  • Health: 3,1
  • Life satisfaction: 0,3
  • Safety: 2,5
  • Work-life balance: 3,6

Well, what should I say..

Safety is the biggest issue in SA. 40% of people say that they feel safe walking alone at night. However, in real life, probably 99% of people would say they feel unsafe at night.

The homicide rate in South Africa is 13.7, much higher than the OECD average of 2.6. This rate means the number of murders per 100,000 inhabitants.

In addition, life expectancy on itself is low (65 years) without even considering you might die earlier because of the assault. For reference, the OECD average is 81 years. In New Zealand, that number is 83 years (81 years for men, 84 years for women) as of 2022.

The average South African home has less rooms per person, than the OECD average of 1.7 rooms per person, and only 64% of houses have private access to an indoor flushing toilet.

South Africa’s quality of life indicators, according to the Numbeo are:

Purchasing Power Index85.87  High
Safety Index24.66  Low
Healthcare Index63.48  High
Climate Index95.25  Very High
Cost of Living Index37.08  Very Low
Property Price to Income Ratio3.40  Very Low
Traffic Commute Time Index39.07  Moderate
Pollution Index56.40  Moderate
Quality of Life Index:139.58  Moderate
Source: numbeo.com

Here, Cape Town is also showing the best scores among all other SA cities. According to this index, locals have a high purchasing power and good climate conditions.

Safety tends to be an issue across all South African cities, but purchasing power is quite strong, and the climate is great.

Moreover, here is how South Africa scores overall:

Source: www.usnews.com

Bonus points adding to the quality of life in South Africa:

  • Weather and climate
  • Wildlife
  • Landscape
  • Cultural diversity


If you live or have been in South Africa, you probably don’t take safety for granted.

New Zealand

If you want to feel safe, there is almost no better place than New Zealand (ok maybe Iceland).

In the end, New Zealand ranks as the second safest country in the world. At the same time, South Africa is at place 118 worldwide – still, a long way to go.

South Africa

Safety in South Africa is a big issue. Crime is steadily on the rise, and it doesn’t seem to be improving in the near future. Men, women, and children cannot be guaranteed safety in South Africa. You must be always aware of your surroundings while outside.

Among African countries, South Africa ranks only on place 29 when it comes to general safety. It has a reputation for having one of the highest murder rates in the world.

Generally, South Africa has exceptionally high rates of murder, gender-based violence, robbery, and violent conflict.

Even if you are only traveling to South Africa, you must be alert and aware. Robbery is very common. Mugging and robberies are a much big issue in this country, and so is rape.

Pickpocketing is common among tourists and locals. Keep an eye open in all crowded places like markets, public transport and bus, and train stations. Don’t show off your devices, money, and all other valuables.

Read more on safety if you are planning to travel to SA.

Political and economic stability

Both New Zealand and South Africa are democracies, but how countries are ruled in totally different ways. New Zealand is ranked 5th in the Political stability rankings (2021), while South Africa is 151st.

New Zealand’s political situation is nothing you have to worry about, in fact, it consistently ranks highly internationally for its governmental transparency, democratic institutions, and low levels of corruption.

Overall, people are very satisfied with how their country is managed.

At the same time, politics in South Africa is a common debate among the population. Corruption is high and very common. For instance, former president Jacob Zuma was arrested due to corruption or refusal to justify himself.


Only a few countries can beat New Zealand in terms of the environment. The air only has a PM2.5 level of 6 micrograms per cubic meter. It’s one of the lowest levels in the OECD, with an average of 14 mg.

South Africa isn’t a clean place, at all. It shows an air pollution level of 28.5 micrograms per cubic meter. It’s above the OECD average of 14 micrograms.

Moreover, only 72% of people in South Africa are satisfied with water quality.

Work-life balance

People in New Zealand enjoy a great balance between work, family, and lifestyle. They work well, but it’s not a priority. Everyone from colleagues to employers respects the boundaries between private life and the office. Moreover, there are plenty of vacation days and bank holidays to enjoy your time off.

People love to enjoy all the opportunities New Zealand offers for lifestyle, traveling, relaxation, and the outdoors.

Most expats and immigrants who have relocated to New Zealand would agree that its work-life balance is incredible.

In contrast, finding the time for family and personal life, like hobbies, is more challenging if you are working in South Africa. You are more likely to work longer hours and experience higher demand from employers, colleagues, and customers.


Due to the larger economy and population, the UK has more jobs available. It also has a large variety of positions across all possible sectors. The same can not be said about New Zealand.

New Zealand

The unemployment rate in New Zealand is very low, sitting at 3,3% in 2023. It’s pretty simple to find a job in this country, assuming you have a right to work. Laborers and tradies get at least minimum wage, which is above $22 per hour.

In addition, New Zealand’s work-life balance is legendary; you will have enough holidays and free afternoons to enjoy life.

Speaking of job search, foreigners who get a job in long-term skills shortages can fairly easily get a residency in New Zealand. Shortages are mainly in the following sectors:

  • Finance
  • Construction
  • Engineering
  • Various trades
  • Health and social
  • Hospitality and tourism
  • ICT, electronics, and telecommunications
  • Science

There are several visa paths for immigrants coming to NZ:

  • Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) 
  • Essential skills work visa
  • Work to Residence Category – this is the best way to relocate to New Zealand. To qualify, your profession must be in demand, or you have a job offer from an accredited employer.

New Zealand uses point systems to select candidates from the pool. At the moment, you must have at least 180 points to pass. Learn how to become a New Zealand citizen.

South Africa

South Africa has a fairly high unemployment rate of 17.9%. Getting a job isn’t easy; only about 39% of the working-age population aged 15 to 64 has a paid job. This figure is much lower than the OECD employment average of 66%.

Some in-demand jobs in SA where you will have a fairly good employment chance are:

  • IT jobs. e.g. Software Development
  • Accountants
  • Engineers, e.g. Civil Engineering, Mechanical Engineer

You will be better off working remotely for a foreign company while living in South Africa. Remote jobs are utilized by many people, especially if it’s IT or marketing-related positions.


How much will you earn in both of these countries?

New Zealand

New Zealand’s minimum wage is outstanding, it’s one of the highest in the world. In 2023, the rate is $21,20 per hour, but it will be increased to $23 from April 2023. The median salary of an average New Zealander is $56,160 per year.

Men tend to earn a higher wage of about $63,360, and women get $50,640.

According to the OECD index, New Zealand’s average household disposable income per capita is 39,024 USD per year. At the same time, the average wage is $70,789 or 45,269 USD.

Although salaries are pretty high in New Zealand, the cost of living is high as well. To live comfortably, you need to make at least $50,000 – $60,000 per year as a single person.

Below you can see a median wage in various industries in New Zealand (NZD):

SectorMedian paySalary range
Accounting           $65,000 $48,000 to $125,000
Agriculture, fishing and forestry$55,000$40,000 to $95,000
Architecture $75,000$50,000 to $125,000
Automotive$60,000$40,000 to $85,000
Banking, finance and insurance$65,000$45,000 to $125,000
Construction and roading $60,000$40,000 to $135,000
Customer service $48,000$40,000 to $65,000
Education    $60,000$42,000 to $75,000
Engineering    $75,000$48,000 to $130,000
Executive and general management$85,000$48,000 to $195,000
Government and council$70,000$40,000 to $145,000
Healthcare $55,000$40,000 to $85,000
Hospitality and tourism$50,000$40,000 to $65,000
HR and recruitment $65,000$48,000 to $122,000
Information technology (IT)$105,000$50,000 to $200,000
Legal   $65,000$45,000 to $125,000
Manufacturing and operations  $48,000$40,000 to $75,000
Marketing, media and communications $70,000$45,000 to $135,000
Office and administration$50,000$42,000 to $75,000
Property$85,000$50,000 to $150,000
Retail$48,000$40,000 to $65,000
Sales      $65,000$42,000 to $115,000
Science and technology$65,000$42,000 to $115,000
Trades and services   $55,000$40,000 to $85,000
Transport and logistics$50,000$40,000 to $80,000
Source: Trademe Salary Guide 2020

South Africa

Salaries in South Africa are considered to be low, especially if you compare them to Western standards. At the same time, the cost of living is also lower.

South Africa’s average salary in 2022 was R24,813 a month, or about 1,442 USD. In 2021 this figure was R24,000 per month. Talking of annual pay, the average South African employee gets R297,600.

That said, the minimum wage in South Africa is pretty shocking. In March 2022, it was increased to R23.19 per hour, which is only 1.59 USD.

In South Africa, the average household has only 9,338 USD as disposable income. In contrast, the OECD average is 30,490 USD. South Africa’s GDP per capita was 5,947 USD in December 2021.

If you are earning R22,000 (1,278 USD) a month, you are considered middle class in South Africa.

Some of the highest jobs in South Africa are electricity, gas, and water supply sector, which pay an average salary of about R50,000 (2,906 USD) gross a month.

Here is an overview of typical jobs and annual salaries in South Africa:

  • Accountant: R120K to R460K
  • Finance manager: R65K to R130K
  • Sales manager: R250K to R900K
  • Business development manager: R180K to R840K
  • Chief executive officer: R86K to R260K
  • Chief finance officer: R290K to R2.5M
  • General manager: R120K to R1.2M
  • Legal assistant: R49K to R370K
  • Customer service manager: R140K to R600K
  • Human resource manager: R170K to R760K
  • Construction manager: R450K to R914K
  • Hospitality/hotel manager: R16K to R280K
  • Tourism/travel agent: R16K to R240K
  • IT manager: R180K to R950K
  • Graphic designer: R78K to R300K
  • Civil engineer: R170K to R690K
  • Electrical engineer: R150K to R810K
  • Mechanical engineer: R160K to R720K
  • Aerospace engineer: R290K to R1.5M
  • Architecture engineer: R379K to R660K

Source: grabjobs.co

The country experiences significant social inequality (92.47), which is mainly based on income.

Cost of living

The cost of living always reflects local wages, hence, New Zealand, with significantly higher salaries, is more expensive to live in.

New Zealand

So, to live alone and independently in the country’s largest city Auckland, you should have at least $4,630 monthly to cover the main expenses. A family of four requires around $8,327 per month to live comfortably.

Read the full guide on the cost of living in New Zealand.

Rent will be your biggest pain. In Auckland, you need at least $650 per week or $2,600 per month to rent a house in the suburbs. Bills aren’t included.

Read our guide about salaries in New Zealand vs the UK. And we also have a dedicated guide about New Zealand salaries.

South Africa

South Africa’s cost of living is almost twice lower as New Zealand’s.

  • Cost of living for a family of four: 2,481 USD
  • Average living expenses for a single person: 1,264 USD

For instance, the cost of living in Cape Town is:

  • 68% cheaper than in New York
  • 60% cheaper than in London
  • 53% cheaper than in Paris
  • 51% cheaper than in Tokyo
  • 59% cheaper than in Los Angeles

Here is a comparison of prices in Auckland vs Johannesburg (2024):

Consumer prices in Auckland are 99.4% higher than in Johannesburg
Rent prices in Auckland are 204.8% higher than in Johannesburg
Restaurant prices in Auckland are 107.8% higher than in Johannesburg
Groceries prices in Auckland are 139% higher than in Johannesburg
Local purchasing power in Auckland is 4.7% higher than in Johannesburg
Source: www.numbeo.com

That said, you would need around R94,180 ($8,436) in Auckland to have the same standard of life that you would have with R42,000 ($3,738) in Johannesburg. The difference between living expenses in the largest cities is shocking.

A meal in a restaurant costs about $8, while you pay at least twice as much in New Zealand.

So, how much do you need to live comfortably in South Africa? Generally, a budget of R20,000 – R30,000 or 1,145 – 1,718 USD per month is enough for a single to cover all main expenses.

Rent and housing

The average New Zealand home is pretty large and has 2.4 rooms per person. Although South Africa has less room per person, on average, houses are bigger, more spacious, and are built at a solid distance from one another.

While, in New Zealand, houses tend to be more compact and built close to each other, especially in Auckland.

New Zealand

In New Zealand, most people live in houses, so you are more likely to rent an entire house which usually has two-three bedrooms.

The median rent in Auckland in 2022 is between $550 (two bedrooms) to $625 (three bedrooms) per week or $2,200 to $2,500 per month (2022).

In Wellington, the capital of New Zealand, the average rent across all types of properties was $575 in 2022.

However, rents are exponentially rising, and today it’s very hard to find something decent under $650 per week.

One thing you have to keep in mind is that homes in New Zealand are significantly more expensive than in South Africa and the rest of the world. Expect to pay above $1,000,000 for an average three-bedroom house.

New Zealand’s homes can be pretty cold, as temperatures drop in particular months and at night. They often aren’t well-insulated or double-glazed. You should hunt for a newly built house to enjoy the most comfort.

South Africa

Rent in South Africa is affordable, you can expect to pay 603 USD for a one-bedroom apartment in a nice area. A two-bedroom house costs about 749 USD per month in a normal area. Monthly bills for a two-bedroom apartment averaging 97 USD.

Furthermore, house prices are lower in South Africa, with an average price tag in Cape Town of around R1,6 mil, which is around 93,000 USD. This might be shocking, but home prices in Auckland are at least 10 times more expensive.

Some typical rental prices you will see in South Africa:

  • two-bedroom apartment in the city center: R16,227 (929 USD)
  • one-bedroom apartment in a good area: R10,414 (596 USD)
  • utilities per month: R1,371 (96 USD)

According to statistics, in 2021, the national average rent was about R7,900 (452 USD). The Western Cape is the most expensive place to live, with an average rent of R9,400 (538 USD). About one-third of rental properties in South Africa had monthly rent between R5,000 and R7,500.

Although rent in Western Cape might seem to be expensive for South Africa, it’s a bargain for New Zealand.

Apart from rent prices, houses differ quite significantly in these countries. South Africa is located on a continent, while NZ is an island, so dwellings are built differently.

In South Africa, you will see more stable and solid houses built from bricks or concrete, while in New Zealand uses wood. Here dwellings are often made out of timber and are less durable.

Climate and weather

New Zealand

New Zealand and South Africa are pretty similar when it comes to climate, especially if you are relocating from Cape Town. New Zealand lies in several climate zones, but most of it falls into a temperate climate.

Only Northern New Zealand (Northland) belongs to the sub-tropical climate zone. That brings an average annual temperate of about 16°C degrees in the North and 10°C in the South; which means it’s never very hot, and it’s never very cold.

In summer, the maximum average temperatures range around 20 – 30ºC, and in winter, between 10 – 15ºC.

So on the Northern Island, summers and winters are mild. It rains a lot, especially during the winter. South Island is much drier and colder. The region of Otago has a somewhat alpine climate due to the abundance of mountains. You can expect a distinct change in seasons and even snow.

South Africa

South Africa also has a temperate climate which is influenced by the ocean around it. The mean annual temperature is 17.5℃, which is warmer than in NZ.

Plus, South Africa has less rain, only about 469.9 mm per year. In NZ, you will get between 640mm and 1500mm per year, but in cities like Auckland and Wellington, it’s whole 2400 mm.

Nature and outdoors

Which country has more beautiful nature and outdoor activities?

New Zealand has some of the most beautiful and untouched nature in the world. You will find anything from sandy beaches, mountains, forests, volcanoes, lakes, rivers, and fjords. It’s a dream of the explorer.

Besides, in every city, town, and village, you will have quick access to nature, it’s always in proximity.

South Africa is popular for its incredible wildlife, which you won’t find in New Zealand. In fact, the most dangerous animals in NZ are various spiders and great white sharks.

South Africa is home to some epic natural treasures like savannahs, forests, mountains, deserts, beaches, canyons, and capes. There are also plenty of reserves and National Parks to explore.

While New Zealand is the best place to calm down, brief, and relax, you should head to South Africa for a real adventure!

Best cities to live

Unlike the common belief, Auckland isn’t the best city to live in in New Zealand. There are much better options out there, including:

  • Queenstown
  • Tauranga
  • Wellington
  • Christchurch
  • Dunedin
  • Napier
  • Taupo
  • Nelson

South Africa has a larger population (60.5 million vs 5 million), therefore, it has more cities to choose from compared to New Zealand. The best places to live, whether you are a foreigner or a local, are:

  • Cape Town
  • Durban
  • Franschhoek
  • Port Elizabeth
  • Pretoria
  • George

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