Salary Survey 2009

Arabian Business Salary Survey 2009 reveals all the 5Ws & H about employees working in the Gulf region.
By Andy Sambidge
Sat 07 Mar 2009 04:00 AM


Welcome to the results of the
Arabian BusinessSalary Survey 2009, where we reveal how much employees working in the Gulf region are being paid, ranked by industry, location and nationality.

Unlike last year's poll, which took place during a boom time for the Gulf, this year's questions, answered by more than 3,000 respondents during the month of January were posed at a time when firms were cutting back on their workforce and their budgets.

And it shows. Analysis of the results of our
Arabian BusinessSalary Survey 2009 reveals it doesn't matter how much you earn or how senior your role is, there are no longer any guarantees about job security in the region.

People working in Oman are upbeat about their salary prospects, with more than 55 percent of respondents eyeing an increase in their pay packet.

A telling statistic reveals that four out of the top 10 earners who completed our survey - all on substantial six-figure monthly salaries (in US dollars) - admitted they were anxious about their job prospects. Regardless of your industry, it would seem, uncertainty reigns.

The nationality divide

When ranked by nationality, our data showed wages are as diverse as cultures.British expats working in GCC states, for example, earn more than double the salary of their Indian expat counterparts.

Employees from the UK who took part in our poll told us they earned an average of nearly $14,500 a month including all bonuses, commission and allowances, compared to the Indian average of just over $6,000. Across all respondents, the average salary was $8,857 a month.

Americans ranked top in the salary stakes, taking home an average salary of more than $19,000 a month. Australians came second, with an average salary of nearly $17,000, and South Africans took third place with a monthly pay packet of $16,152.

The Brits came in fourth ($14,478), with Canadians completing the top five positions with an average salary of $13,726.

Workers from the Philippines were the worst paid, according to our data, earning an average of $3,082 a month. The figure is almost half that of Syrians, who came second from bottom in the salary rankings.

Indian, Pakistani and Egyptian expatriates completed the bottom five rankings, earning $6,193, $6,649 and $6,343 respectively.

For the purposes of this particular analysis, a minimum of 50 responses were analysed for each nationality.

Bankers defy the downturn

Despite the shortage of liquidity in the Gulf's banking sector courtesy of the credit crunch, the industry's employees do not appear to have the same problem.

According to our data, banking is one of the best paid industries to be in, boasting an average salary (including all bonuses, commission and allowances) of nearly $16,000 a month. That was almost double the monthly pay packet of an average construction industry professional, more than 600 of whom told us that their average salary was just over $8,000.

While the real estate industry has been hard hit by the global slowdown, particulary in the UAE, those who are still in a job rank among the best paid, averaging out at $11,816 a month.

The top five best-paid industries in the Gulf also included healthcare, which took the top spot with an average salary of more than $20,000, finance and insurance ($11,902), and oil and gas ($10,523).

Pay rise in first half of 2008

The impact of the global economic crisis on the region, which started to take hold in September, is reflected in the responses of workers asked about pay rises.

Only 34 percent of employees working in the GCC received a pay rise during the second half of 2008.


Employees working in Kuwait were worst hit by salary freezes in the latter part of last year, according to our survey, with just 22 percent gaining an increase in their monthly pay packet.

The best place to secure a wage increase during the last six months was Oman, where 46 percent of workers had been rewarded by their companies. However, our survey also showed that employees in Oman were the worst paid in the region, despite the wage increase.

In Kuwait, 38 percent of workers benefited from a pay rise while the top three positions in the Gulf were completed by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, where 35 percent of employees were rewarded.

Bahrain came second from bottom in the pay rise table with just 32 percent of employees saying they had received an increase during the past six months.

Pay rise in first half of 2009

Despite the downturn, many respondents were optimistic about their pay prospects. Forty-five percent of employees in the Gulf region are expecting to receive a pay rise in the next six months.

Ignoring the country's poor record on pay rises, people working in Bahrain are the most optimistic about salaries with 57 percent expecting an increase.

By contrast employees in Kuwait and the UAE are more pessimistic, with 54 percent and 56 percent respectively saying they do not expect any pay hike in the next six months. And if you work in the oil and gas or the cargo/freight industry, your expectations are much higher than those working in real estate or hospitality.

Only 27 percent of people working in the region's struggling property sector expect a pay rise, according to our data.

Pay rise in 2009 by industry

For those in search of a wage hike, the textiles industry was the best sector to work in during the second half of 2008; however, our data also showed that it was the worst paid industry to work for, with an average monthly salary of $3,656 including all bonuses, commission and allowances.

The survey revealed that 57 percent of textile workers who completed our poll had received a pay rise during the past six months, compared to an average of 34 percent across the spectrum of sectors.

Of those who did receive pay rises in the last six months, workers in the travel and tourism, recruitment, law and oil and gas sectors gained most. They achieved above-average salary hikes of between 42 and 44 percent.

Propping up the industry pay rise table was the art and design industry, where our data showed just 18 percent of employees were rewarded with salary increases.

Unsurprisingly employees in the real estate sector also struggled to secure a pay rise, with more than 76 percent saying they had not had one.

Job security by country

Employees working in GCC states remain largely optimistic about future job security, despite the large number of redundancies announced recently in the region.

More than 40 percent of respondents to the
Arabian BusinessSalary Survey 2009 said they looked forward to the future with "complete confidence", with people from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait in particular feeling upbeat about their job prospects.

Sixty-one percent of Kuwaitis and 58 percent of Saudis told us they had no worries but in the UAE that figure fell dramatically to just 37 percent, reflecting the larger number of redundancies seen in the emirates.

High profile developers such as Nakheel and Damac have cut hundreds of staff, while thousands of other workers have lost their jobs in the construction industry.

Workers in Bahrain, Qatar and Oman are also reasonably optimistic about the future, with 48 percent, 52 percent and 57 percent of those polled saying they were looking forward with confidence.

However, the picture is not all rosy for Gulf-based staff. A large chunk of the 3,000-plus respondents who took part in our survey admitted they were less sure of their job prospects now than they were six months ago - before the full impact of the worldwide crisis hit the region.

Least optimistic, according to our survey, are those working in the UAE, with 43 percent feeling less secure in the job than in the summer of 2008, followed by Bahrain (36 percent) and Kuwait (34 percent).


Job security in the real estate sector

More than 75 percent of people working in the real estate industry in GCC states are pessimistic about their job prospects, according to the results of the survey.

With hundreds of redundancies already announced across the region, and particularly in the UAE, only 21 percent of property professionals said they looked to the future with confidence, compared to an average of 41 percent across all industries polled.

Forty-five percent of industry staff said they were less sure of their job prospects now when compared to six months ago.

While five percent told us they had already been made redundant, a further 14 percent feared they could lose their jobs in the next six months as the property sector continues its correction. Another 15 percent of real estate staff told us they were anxious about keeping their jobs.

Construction, another industry hit hard by the downturn also reported lower than average confidence in job security. Only 33 percent of workers said they looked forward to the future in the same job, while 12 percent said they had either been laid off or expected the axe to fall in the next six months.

The construction industry has been heavily impacted by the slump in the real estate market, and has seen numerous projects either cancelled or suspended.

Job security by industry

The oil and gas industry, a mainstay of Gulf economies, is perceived to offer employees the best job security amid the current economic slowdown.

Nearly 58 percent of energy workers polled told us they looked forward to 2009 with confidence, and felt their role was secure within the company they worked for.

While 34 percent of oil and gas professionals said they were less sure about their job prospects than six months ago, only five percent were actually worried about losing their jobs, which is less than half the average across all industries.

Retail, which has seen a huge boom in the past year with new malls opening in the UAE, Kuwait and Bahrain, also ranked high in our survey for job security. While 57 percent of retail staff told us they were confident about keeping their job in 2009, another 34 percent admitted they were less confident than they were six months ago, reflecting the slump in consumer spending.

Last week, jewellery giant Damas CEO Tawhid Abdullah told
Arabian Businessthat it had put off six planned shop openings and had reported a 10-12 percent drop in sales so far in 2009, compared to 2008.

Other industries that fared well in the poll included government, aviation, tourism, law and information technology (IT).

Expected pay rise by country

Despite the deepening gloom associated with the global economic crisis, more than a third of employees working in the Gulf region expect to receive a pay rise of more than 10 percent in 2009.

People working in Oman are particularly upbeat about their salary prospects with more than 55 percent of respondents eyeing an increase in their pay packet. Only 20 percent of respondents working in the sultanate told us they expected no reward from their employer this year.

Employees in Qatar were also bullish about the salary prospects with 47 percent expecting a big rise and another 20 percent expecting a minimum of a five percent boost.

Although Bahrain didn't score the highest for employees expecting the top raises, the lowest percentage of respondents (19 percent) fearing they would receive no pay rise were from the Gulf state.

Kuwait had the highest percentage of people (23 percent) who were expecting a pay rise of between five and nine percent while Saudi Arabia scored highest for those expecting a raise of up to five percent.

At the other end of the scale, only 35 percent of people working in the UAE expect a salary increase of more than 10 percent with an equal number saying they did not expect a pay rise at all during 2009.


Expected pay rise by profession

Legal professionals working in the Gulf region have the highest expectations when it comes to their pay rises in 2009.

More than 57 percent of those working in the legal profession who took part in our poll said they were confident of getting a minimum 10 percent salary increase from their employer - more than 20 percent more than the average across all industries.

However only 23 percent were worried they would receive no pay rise at all, compared to an overall average of 33 percent.

Information technology employees were second highest on wage rise expectations with 46 percent telling us a 10 percent plus increase was on the cards in 2009.

At the other end of the scale, people working in the battered real estate market were less optimistic with more than 54 percent resigned to the fact that their salary would not increase at all this year. Just 21 percent expected a rise of more than 10 percent. Similarly downbeat were construction industry workers - 41 percent did not expect a pay rise.

Top earners - insight

A key finding from this year's survey was that, regardless of how much you earn or how senior your role is, the threat of redundancy can affect anyone.

Four out of the top 10 earners who completed the poll said they were anxious about keeping their job during 2009 including one aviation company director who had been in his role for more than five years.

All those top earners who were worried about job security worked in the UAE, although the industries in which they specialised varied from healthcare to banking.

Regarding pay rise prospects in 2009, four out of the 10 did not expect an increase in their already substantial pay packet, while another four expected a pay rise of more than 10 percent. Out of the 10, eight were UAE-based with two working in Bahrain while the most common industry for high fliers was banking.

So how much does our top professional earn? Well, he or she wouldn't get out of bed for less than $300,000 a month including all commission, bonuses and allowances. But it's not all good news - our top earner expects to get a pay rise of less than five percent this year!

Staff loyalty

Employees working in Saudi Arabia are the most loyal staff in the Gulf region. Thirty-eight percent of respondents working in the Kingdom have been with their employer for at least five years, compared to just under four percent who have yet to complete their first year, the survey results reveal.

Saudi was well ahead of its Gulf compatriots with Qatar having the least number of employees who had completed five years or more with their current employer. Bahrain reported the highest proportion of staff who had been in their job for one year or less.

Our industry breakdown showed that workers in the oil and gas industry felt most compelled to stay with their current employer (43 percent), followed by retail (39 percent) and travel and tourism (38 percent).

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