The UAE professionals said they received an average 15 per cent salary increase last year and expect a 16 per cent raise in the next 12 months, a new survey has revealed.
In the survey conducted by Dubai-based job portal Bayt.com market research firm YouGovSiraj, the UAE tops the table in terms of the biggest earners, with 20 per cent of respondents saying they earn between $5,000 (Dh18,350) and $10,000 per month, and seven per cent earning $10,000 and above. The survey found employees in the oil and gas sector the most satisfied with their salary levels.
Bahrain and Qatar had similar levels of high earners, with 22 and 19 per cent earning between $5,000 and $10,000 a month, respectively, and seven per cent more than $10,000.
The report showed that an average of 15.45 per cent salary hike was experienced in the past two years, a 15.16 per cent increase in salary took place in the last one year. The figures, however came with a rider.
While the average rise in salaries was 15 per cent, the rise in cost of living stood at 37 per cent. "Clearly, the salaries are not rising in tandem with the cost of living raises," the report said.
Salary satisfaction is running low across the Middle East, with just seven per cent of the UAE residents highly satisfied with their remuneration. The picture around the Gulf is similarly bleak with each of the GCC countries registering the same level of dissatisfaction.
Those heading the human resources companies in the region say that even though a bleak economic scenario prevails in the UAE, professionals, mostly the ones who have proved their calibre, are still managing to get upward appraisals.
"This is particularly true for those who stand high on the corporate ladder. People at senior levels, the ones with a salaries of Dh50,000 and above are making deliberate career moves. And people are joining new organisations at salaries five to 20 per cent higher than their previous salary," said Tel Rashid, Regional Manager of HR consultancy Spengler Fox.
Rashid said that contrary to perception, people in the medium-income groups are also being able to find jobs. "People are switching sectors and some of them are managing to join new jobs at higher salaries," he said.
Rashid said appraisals at fixed intervals remain an HR responsibility for companies. "Different solutions are being found. An appraisal may not necessarily mean a higher salary. It may mean those on probation being regularised," he said.
The survey can be used by companies to formulate their future plans, a Bayt.com executive said.
"Conducting a wide-scale survey across the Middle East by asking what level of remuneration an employee receives and their satisfaction with it helps to paint a very clear picture of economic conditions inside a particular country," said the website's Regional Manager Amer Zureikat.
"The relevance of such data increases manifold during a time like this – a global economic crisis – as it gives an up-to-date indication of employee sentiment in the region, which can be used to compare people's attitudes and opinions during other financial cycles."
Oman, which has suffered the ill-effects of low oil prices and low turnout of tourists due to the crisis, scored the highest on the salary satisfaction scale. While nine per cent of professionals in Oman were highly satisfied with their jobs, 65 per cent were moderately satisfied.
In the UAE, seven per cent were highly satisfied with their salaries and 61 per cent were moderately satisfied with their current salaries.
The picture around the region in terms of what level of salary people receive varies widely. The lowest paid residents in the region are in the North African countries of Algeria, Egypt and Morocco – 54 per cent of residents in Algeria earn under $500 per month, and just four per cent were found near the top of the scale between $5,000 and $10,000 per month.
In both Egypt and Morocco, 47 per cent of residents receive under $500 per month, with two per cent in each country earning $5,000 to $10,000 per month and one per cent in each country earning more than $10,000 per month.
The biggest disparity in the increase in cost of living and salary raise is in Jordan, where salaries increased by 15 per cent compared to a 39 per cent increase in living costs, which backs up previous market research about the Levant region being hardest hit by salaries against cost of living.
Algeria and Tunisia recorded the smallest margins in terms of disparity: with average salary raises of 12 and nine per cent, respectively, and the average cost of living increasing by 26 and 23 per cent.
The survey also highlighted what percentage of their salary people manage to save each month. The majority of all respondents manage to save between one and five per cent.
A quarter of all respondents said they manage to save nothing.
The biggest savers were residents in Oman, Qatar and Bahrain, with about a third saying they save more than 21 per cent of their monthly salary. Those saving the least are in Jordan. Just over a fifth, or 22 per cent, of UAE residents said they save between one and five per cent of their salary.
"These figures reveal that even though some people receive much higher salaries in some countries than others, it doesn't correlate that these high earners save more money, which might have been expected. This could be explained by the disparity between cost of living and salary increases, or by the fact that the high earners seek a lifestyle that matches their high salary," said Nassim Ghrayeb, Chief Executive of YouGovSiraj.
Interestingly, the survey highlighted the level of salary satisfaction in terms of industry. The most highly satisfied industry workers were found in the oil, gas and petrochemicals sector, which is traditionally known to be one of the most profit-generating sectors in the region.
Despite the massive fall and subsequent stability of oil prices over the past year, salaries within the industry have seemingly been unaffected. The industries which provided least salary satisfaction to workers were education and academia, government and civil service and transport and travel.
The study additionally revealed that across the Middle East, 77 per cent of residents feel they have been hard hit by the global economic crisis, with just 24 per cent of people in the UAE stating they have felt no effects. Residents in Egypt – 81 per cent – were the hardest hit among the surveyed countries, while least affected was Oman, with more than a third – 37 per cent – stating they have not been affected.
Asked their feelings about the current economic climate in terms of the labour market, almost a quarter of respondents said they feel quite pessimistic, with an equal 16 per cent citing that they are either optimistic about economic growth and plenty of jobs being available; that jobs in their country of residence will be more competitive in the future; and that companies will continue to recruit but salaries will continue to decline.
Egypt and the UAE were the gloomiest countries surveyed with 30 and 29 per cent, respectively, feeling pessimistic about the future, while Oman and Bahrain's respondents were brightest, with 23 and 22 per cent, respectively, stating their optimism for economic growth and greater job availability.
"Recruitment industry professionals and organisations like Bayt.com as well as other industry stakeholders like major industry leaders find this type of timely and localised information highly beneficial as it provides a good starting point for identifying the trends that are driving these current sentiments, thus allowing them to focus or change their business strategies accordingly to address employees' concerns," Zureikat said.