How Much Are Interns Paid? SSETA Internship Stipend Advice

Are interns paid fairly for their work? What does an internship pay?

How Are Interns Paid?: What Do Internships Pay in South Africa?

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Are Interns Paid for Internships?

First off, interns should get paid. Regulations for Interns can be expected to be tightened to reduce youth exploitation. Many firms advertise internships to recruit qualified young talent cheaply. 

Why Are Interns Paid Anyway?

Exploring the question “Why are interns paid?” uncovers the importance of valuing interns’ contributions. Some employers say interns should pay them for the privilege of practicing a real job at a real organization!

Arguments for paying interns a stipend include:

  1. Fair compensation: Interns often perform work that is similar to that of paid employees, and many work full-time hours. It is therefore argued that they deserve to be paid for their work.
  2. Cost of living: Internships can be costly for youth, who often have to cover their own expenses such as transportation and housing. A stipend can help offset these costs.
  3. Encouragement of diversity: Internships without stipends can be prohibitively expensive for youth from low-income backgrounds, effectively limiting opportunities to only those who can afford to work for free. Paying interns a stipend can help increase diversity in the workplace.
internship cover letter

Arguments against paying interns a stipend:

  1. Learning experience: Some employers argue that internships are primarily learning experiences, and that paying interns would change the nature of the relationship between the intern and the employer.
  2. Cost to employers: Employers may not want to pay a stipend, as this would increase the cost of the internship program.

Ultimately, whether interns deserve to be paid a stipend depends on the specific circumstances of the internship and the laws and regulations where the internship takes place. In some countries and industries, interns are legally entitled to be paid a minimum wage, while in others, internships may be unpaid.

Why Are Interns Paid? Because it’s Fair

In South Africa, we encourage the practice of paying interns as the rates of unemployment and inequality are extremely high.

Interns must be wary of employers who advertise internship opportunities and don’t declare what the payment is before an interview.  Withholding pay information is a common industry practice used to get you to agree to the least possible amount and to find talented, vulnerable candidates.  Companies like Truworths 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.” Don’t believe it. Many organisations have horrible cultures and youth are better off developing a vision for a self-employed future. Fuck the system or the system will fuck you, My Darling Dear.

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

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Are Interns Paid Fairly by Employers? What should Employers Pay Interns?

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 the position apart from the status quo and attract the best candidates. A minimum wage or even a simple stipend can radically improve the quality of applicants to an 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 are Entitled to Pay Transparency

Interns want to learn and contribute without fear of exploitation. I am vehemently opposed to companies that advertise Internships without stipulating how much the position is worth. An inexperienced applicant is unlikely to have the 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.

Are Interns Paid According to Legislation? What the DoL says about Internships

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 through a skills levy, to ensure funding is available for skills development.
    • New skills development and work experience programs were also developed by the Department to raise the employability of the citizens of South Africa. One of these work experience programs is called internships.
hiring youth

What do SETAs Say about Internships and Pay?

The best information was found on the Services SETA website.


The Services Seta decided to conduct a project for Interns who completed their training and still lack workplace experience before they can be employed.
The following processes were identified for Vocational and Tertiary Institutions that intended to be 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.

How Much are Interns Paid on Services SETA Funded Internships?

  • 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 rands) 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.

Internship 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 for Internships

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

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  • 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 checklist
  • 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.

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Who funds Internships?

The Department has established internship programmes that are funded through Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs). Many companies also host independent 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, tourism, agriculture 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 Internships 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. Take a look at how the ETDPSETA is addressing hard-to-fill vacancies in 2023 at this link.

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 are perfect for Unemployed Graduates

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  1. Unemployed people can apply for an internship if an employer is 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.

More Posts Related to Internships

Leonie Hall

Leonie Hall, disruptive thinker and dynamic strategist, is an expert in education, development, quality management and innovation. She has spoken at local and international conferences; and currently works as an independent consultant and content developer. Contact Leonie for a consultation.

This Post Has 23 Comments

  1. Zane


    I got in-service training with no stipend, where can I apply for stipend?

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  3. Thamae

    Hi Precious

    Where did you get these figures. I need them to justify my apprentice request for increment as well as entry level.

  4. Leonie Hall

    Thanks Precious! I think the rates are horribly low for young adults. I hope the Departments of Labour and Higher Education and Training improve their stipend policy processes as they are severely limiting participation from the poor.

  5. Precious

    You forgot to add this part, it might help your leaders check in what category they fall under.
    SETA Policy:
    NQF Level Internship Value
    1 & 2 R 7 200 (R 1 200 per month for 6 months)
    3 & 4 R 9 000 (R 1 500 per month for 6 months)
    5 & 6 R 12 000 (R 2 000 per month for 6 months)
    7 & 8 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

  6. Leonie Hall

    Hi Sam, define yourself as an employee who is on a learnership as opposed to an unemployed person on a learnership. Your group should elect a rep and you all go to the CCMA or Department of Labour and the DHET to lodge a grievance. Also chat to the union rep if there is one. Check the details and ensure there’s a lack of compliance with the legislation. Best of luck! Leonie

  7. Sam

    Hi, I’m doin a learner ship, currently in the workplace stage. I see above that we should be getting R3000 pm but we have been getting R1500 pm since we started the learnership , we raised concerns but it was just raised to R2000. And it seems seta themselves are the ones who told the agency’s to pay us R1500. So what is the amount we should be getting legally.

  8. wiseman

    Well we spoken with HR and Placement units, but both failed to address the matter.Then i will further lodge the complain to relevant platform especially the one you mentioned above.

    Thanks a lots for way forward leonie.


  9. Leonie Hall

    Hi Wiseman
    Thanks for your comment and the concerns you raised. As learners are also termed employees, you need to engage with your labour rights. Lodge a complaint with the Department of Higher Education, contact the relevant union, speak to HR and so forth.
    There are many articles on this blog, addressing your issues and what you can do. You aren’t helpless and there is action you can take without being fearful.
    Regards, Leonie

  10. wiseman

    Hi my name is wiseman, i would like to get clarification on why SETA does not run these program on it own, because as young people of South Africa we feel exploited by Companies which does not produce any thing but at the end of the day we are not getting paid two to three months down the line. These companies that are given this work to do, i think they are violating our employment act and i wish to state that we are not happy in the ground about these companies which are given the money and think that, there are making fever for us.We as young people we are losing the moral of attending at work and we even sometimes not going to work because no money for transport and other personal things especially for girls.I will also like to outline that many students finished their study by using NSFAS, so they really have need of stipend money. We really appeal for serious intervention on this matter.

  11. sphelele

    Does seta double up the payment on the following month?

  12. Leonie Hall

    There’s a possibility for anything to happen. SETAs can withhold money because a training provider hasn’t submitted the correct documentation.

  13. BALIWE

    hi there is it possibly for CETA not to pay the stipend learnership for more than one month?

  14. Fanie

    Hi if we intend to send an intern for a postgraduate degree are we as a company eligible to claim back the tuition cost?? Mind you this intern is still on our internship program. Your quick response would be highly appreciated.

  15. Leonie Hall

    Hey Hlengiwe! Unfortunately, I can’t call as Keep Climbing is about sharing information and making it available to you. Please read all Keep Climbing posts on Finding Learnership as that’s how you can find free advice to help yourself.


    hi my name is hlengiwe ncwane I need to now how I can apply for the available learnership or internships that are available at the moment. Please call me

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