How much Internships Pay

Regulations for Interns are going to be tightened in order to reduce increasing youth exploitation. Many firms advertise internships in order to recruit talent cheaply. 

Internship Stipends

Interns must be wary of employers who advertise internship opportunities and don’t declare what the payment is prior to an interview.  Withholding pay information is a common industry practice used to get you to agree to the least possible amount.  Companies try to convince you that your skills are worth a limited amount and that you are very fortunate to be considered for a wonderful opportunity.

For queries relating to industry payments, the Department of Labour and relevant SETAs should be contacted for clarification.

What does DoL say?

The Department of Labour brought in new laws to develop the skills of the citizens of our country:

  • The Skills Development Act, 1998 and Skills Development Levies Act, 1999.
    • Employers contribute money in the form of a skills levy, to ensure funding is available for skills development.
    • New skills development and work experience programmes were also developed by the Department to raise the employability of the citizens of South Africa. One of these work experience programmes is called internships.

Who funds Internships?

The Department has established internship programmes that are funded through Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs). Many companies also host independant internships that they don’t receive SETA grants for. While plenty of these companies are genuine, many are exploitative.

SETAs are organisations that ensure training of good quality happens in each sector of the economy, e.g.  construction, services, engineering or health sectors. The SETA receives money that was gathered from employers to upskill the nation and then pays the money in the form of a grant to employers, to employ unemployed people for internships.

Which Job Experiences are preferred for Funding?

Scarce Skills!!!!

SETAs prefer funding internships for scarce skill occupations.

Sometimes the opportunities for internship funding will be for people with a qualification in a scarce skill only.

A scarce skill is an occupation that is in short supply and needed in the labour market to make the country move ahead, e.g. certain occupations in health, such as doctors. Work-seekers will notice that the Department encourages the unemployed to further their studies in scarce skills, by making more funds available for these occupations. The reason is to help them find a job and to help the country meet its human resources needs. DoL

Internships for the Unemployed

  1. Unemployed people can apply for an internship if there is an employer calling for applications.
    1. Employers advertise in newspapers, or place adverts in the community, city or town. Work-seekers should therefore watch for these adverts.
    2. The Department encourages the unemployed to further their studies in scarce skills and makes more funds available for these occupations.
    3. This means that the SETA will be attracted to funding companies that offer internship opportunities for scarce skills.
    4. This is because it’s more likely that with some experience and coaching, these interns chances of employment become higher.
  2. Unemployed people can also apply at the nearest Labour Centre for an internship opportunity.
    1. The internship opportunities will be available on a computerized job-matching system, the Employment Services System of South Africa, (ESSA).
    2. By providing their details to the staff at Labour Centres, work-seekers can be matched to the opportunities, when these arise.
    3. The Labour Centre staff can then inform them about the opportunities.

The DoL does not post anything definitive on pay scales.

What do SETAs Say about Internship Salaries?

The best information for the purposes of this post was found on the Services SETA website.


The Services Seta has decided to conduct a project for Interns who completed their training and still lack the workplace experience before they can be employed.
The following processes have been identified for Vocational and Tertiary Institutions that intend to become part of this project:

  • The Services SETA will invite employers to accommodate interns for a period of 6 months.
  • The internship programme will include specified activities to be completed and evidence to be gathered in a Portfolio of Evidence, for internal assessment after completion of the internship.
    •  Workplace coaches/mentors will assist Interns during the workplace experience and the gathering of workplace evidence for their portfolio of evidence.
    •  The interns will be paid a stipend as follows for the period of 6 months.
    • Subjected to Services SETA’s discretion.

The Money Trail for Employers and Interns

  • R 18 000 (R 3 000 per month for 6 months)
  • Employers will be allowed to top this amount up if they so wish, but this is not compulsory. The payment of the above allowances will be made to the employer and the employer must pay the intern.
  • If a Learner is disabled an additional disability grant of R 1 500 per month for 6 months is available.
  • The Employer shall receive an internship grant of R 1000 (one thousand rand) per learner for the duration of the internship, payable with each tranche payment of the total grant
  • Please note that if an Intern leaves the workplace of the company, the company will only receive a pro rata payment for the months the Intern was in the workplace.

Payment procedure

  • Employers will have to complete the funding application form for interns and submit it to the Services SETA. (LIM F010)
  • The companies will have to complete the attendance register (LIM –F012) for the interns on a daily basis for the duration of the six months.
  • The Employers will have to ensure that the interns complete the POE and that they collect the necessary proof of workplace experience

Funding Disbursement    

 35% of the total grant shall be disbursed to the employer on receipt of the following documents:

  • The Funding application; (LIM F010)
  • The SSETA/Employer Agreement; (SLA)
  • Intern’s Information Form; (LIM F029)
  • Certified copy of the intern’s qualification;
  • The intern’s CV;
  • Intern’s identity document.
  • Vendor Form –(PROC F034) with all attachments as per the check list
  • Current and Original Tax Clearance Certificate
  • HET/FET agreement
  • Intern Template
  • Invoice for 35% of the internship project
  • 35% of the total grant shall be disbursed in Month 3 of the internship on receipt, verification and approval of the following documents:
  • Attendance registers confirming attendance in the first two months of the programme;
  • Proof of workplace experience obtained over the previous two months;
  • Proof of payment of the stipend containing an acknowledgement of receipt of the stipend with the intern’s signature.
  • Invoice for 35% of the internship project
  • The final 30% of the total grant shall be disbursed in month 5 of the programme on receipt of the following documents:
  • Attendance registers confirming attendance in the second two months of the programme;
  • Proof of workplace experience obtained over the previous two months;
  • Proof of payment of the stipend containing an acknowledgement of receipt of the stipend with the intern’s signature.
  • Invoice for 30% of the internship
  • The Employer shall submit the supporting documents in respect of Month 6 for purposes of reconciliation and issuing of the Certificate of Workplace Experience by the Learnerships Division. Failure to submit these documents will result in the SSETA claiming the money paid in respect of the last 2 months of the internship

That’s pretty much the best direction I could unearth about Internship payments.

What Should Employers Pay?

The most important benefit an employer can offer an intern is a highly educational experience that provides access to top-level employees, and industry experience.

That being said, payment is important to set your position apart from the status quo and attract the best candidates. Minimum wage or even a simple stipend can radically improve the quality of applicants to your internship. In addition, pay improves intern morale as well as provides a great incentive for interns to take more responsibility and do better work.

Interns want to learn and contribute without fear of exploitation. I am vehemently opposed to companies that advertise Internships without stipulating a salary. An inexperienced applicant is unlikely to have negotiating skills to pose an argument for a fair stipend so I believe it’s unprofessional for someone to ask them ‘how much do you want to get paid.’

Internship stipends should be included in  recruitment adverts so that applicants can self-target (decide beforehand if the opportunity is worth applying for.) I’ve met many HR practitioners who argue against this, leave your thoughts below in the comments section!

My advice to companies is to pay what the SETA funds and to top it up further.

For a table listing Learnership stipend regulations read

Legislation, Learnerships and Stipend Rules

How much South Africans are paid and your Learnership expectations

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