Made-up Pay Increase for Members of the National Service


In the attached audio clip, which was secretly recorded in Dec 2016, one could listen to a company commander in the Sawa Military camp berating his troops as he made an important announcement which did not go down well with them.

It is a well-known fact that salaries within the National Service sector are very low.  For the kind of work the recruits had been doing they fell short of securing entitlement to proper compensation – actually, they ended up, more or less, with meager pocket money.  According to the report published by the Danish Immigration Service (2014), the monthly salary during the first 18 months of National Service ranged from approximately 80 Nakfa up to 600 Nakfa.  After 18 months it could increase to a maximum of 1500 Nfa.

It is to be remembered that in 2016 the government made an announcement that it was going to raise salaries of members of the national service. Government reports indicate new recruits are receiving a monthly salary of 1800-2000 Nfa, while college graduates are receiving a monthly salary of 3500 Nfa. Is that true?

The adjustment is supposed to help the members of the National Service by bringing their earnings on par with other wages in the country.  Average Monthly Net Salary (After Tax) in Eritrea is 1,500.00 Nfa.   1 USD is 15 Nakfa at the official rate and 23 Nakfa at the black market rate.  However, one needs to bear in mind that for most of them a large percentage of their income goes towards rent (40%-50%).

The gross salary of conscripts was officially raised to 1800 Nfa, and it took over a year for the new pay-scale to take effect.  However, that is only one side of the story. Information from inside Eritrea, a secretly recorded government announcement, provided a detailed breakdown of the deductions the regime has quietly imposed.

Here is a list of deductions imposed on the increase:

Income Tax: 12.4% 224 Nfa
Logistical needs: 16.7% 300 Nfa
Housing: 10% 180 Nfa
Maintenance 5% 90 Nfa
Total deductions: 794 Nfa
Additional deduction:
Amt transferred to families 60% 610 Nfa
Cash payable to recruits:   396 Nfa


Although gross salaries have been’ increased’, after deductions the troops end up with a net income of 300-500 Nfa.  One can see that the deductions have clearly reduced salaries back to pocket money.      All this publicity is much ado about nothing.

The company commander also stated there will be, although undisclosed at the moment, enforced bank savings for the recruits which will be managed by the government. That will bring the actual income of the NS graduates down to a much lower figure. 

In order to help the reader to understand the actual worth of 396 Nfa, here is a list of prices for selected items.

Meal, Inexpensive Restaurant 180.00 Nfa
Domestic Beer (0.5 litre) 23.64 Nfa
Cappuccino (regular) 15.00 Nfa
Coke/Pepsi (0.33 litre bottle) 6.74 Nfa
Pack of Cigarettes (Marlboro) 80.00 Nfa
Gasoline (1 litre) 8.07 Nfa
Taxi Start (Normal Tariff) 20.00 Nfa
Cinema, International Release 22.50 Nfa
Apartment (1 bedroom)
Outside of City Centre
2,500.00 Nfa

This is an example that demonstrates nothing changes in Eritrea. No wonder the youth are escaping en mass from Eritrea.


  1. Smuggled Audio clip (in Tigrinya)
  2. Eritrea: Fury and protests as National Service conscripts pay withheld
  3. Cost of Living in Eritrea