x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Pay cheque pleasure

A new survey indicates that seven per cent of professionals in the UAE are "highly satisfied" with their wages.

ABU DHABI // They have tax-free salaries and are hanging on to their jobs, which might explain why a new survey indicates that seven per cent of professionals in the UAE are "highly satisfied" with their wages. When the survey was conducted last year by Bayt.com, a Middle East jobs website, and YouGov, a market research firm, only three per cent of people reported that level of satisfaction. "They might be happy they still have a job," said Vivek Wagle, a research director with YouGov in Dubai. "They're looking at their friends and family who are losing jobs, who aren't getting salary rises."

The Emirates were on par with Bahrain and Qatar as having the biggest earners in the region. Seven per cent of respondents earned more than US$10,000 (Dh36,730) a month, while 20 per cent had salaries of $5,000 to $10,000 a month. A survey by GulfTalent.com released in October showed that salaries in the UAE rose an average of 13.6 per cent last year, the biggest increase in the region, compared with 10.7 per cent in 2007. But those rises have not nearly kept pace with the cost of living.

Respondents to the Bayt.com-YouGov survey said that although their salaries had risen by 15 per cent, living costs were 37 per cent higher. Last year's results showed salaries rose by an average of 17 per cent, compared with a cost of living increase of 35 per cent. The Middle East Salary Survey is conducted annually. The information was gathered online in December and January, with 13,881 respondents in 13 countries from the Middle East and North Africa.

This year, a quarter of respondents said they were not saving anything, while most managed to save between one and five per cent. About 76 per cent of respondents from reporting they felt the effects of the economic downturn. The UAE was also one of the gloomiest countries, with 29 per cent of those asked saying they felt pessimistic about the future. "Usually, people aren't happy with their salaries," Mr Wagle said. "But it's a feeling not just of pessimism, it's an 'I don't have enough'."

Several professionals taking a break from their desks yesterday, while not "highly satisfied" with their pay, were not complaining either. "It's sort of 50-50," said Paul Finnan, a graphic designer. "I don't suppose it's an adequate salary compared to what apartments cost." Mr Finnan, who arrived late last year, is paying double what he did for accommodation in England. But, he is not paying any tax, so "basically, I'm on par".

The survey's most-satisfied respondents worked in the higher-paying oil, gas and petrochemical sectors; the least satisfied were those in teaching and academics, the Government, civil service, transport and travel. Inside Starbucks, Gillian Arnott, from Scotland, said she worked for a defence company and had been in the country for five years. Although this is the first year, Mrs Arnott has been "happy" with her salary but believes she is paid less as a woman and her family's second earner. She also wondered how people on middle income salaries were managing.

"In Abu Dhabi, with the rents the way they are now, I don't know how you would support yourself." Yigit Sezgin, Mrs Arnott's brother-in-law and a regional director of sales and marketing for the Rezidor Hotel Group from Turkey, said the region would always offer benefits for some and not others. "There are particular professions, I believe, wherever they go they make a good salary," Mr Sezgin said. "And if they come here to the Middle East they can make even more money."

Stefan Willendorfer, who came to work as director of sales at Rezidor seven months ago from Austria, came to the capital because it is a centre for hospitality. "I am satisfied with my salary compared to my former salary because of the benefits," Mr Willendorfer said. "But the main reason I came here was because of the opportunity." An international director of the Dubai property recruitment specialist MacDonald and Company in Dubai said clients have been made redundant and are having to take salary cuts to get back into the job market.

The director, Matthew Taylor, said inflated salaries of six months ago have been downgraded. "They've taken on board all the people they can take on board," said Mr Taylor. "Companies have to be realistic about what the market is doing." amcqueen@thenational.ae