Employees in the UAE and Qatar were the highest paid in the GCC region last year, a new survey has revealed. And those in the UAE, Bahrain and Qatar received the largest annual pay rises.
The average salary increase in the UAE and Bahrain was 17 per cent, according to the online study conducted by Middle East job site Bayt.com and market research specialists YouGovSiraj. Qatar averaged 16 per cent compared with 12 per cent in Saudi Arabia, the lowest figure in the region.
But human resources specialists said employers had to offer more than just pay rises to retain staff. “Salary hikes are the first step towards maintaining the employee count,” said Naresh Bhambhaney head of HR and administration at a media firm in Dubai.
“Together the government and bosses need to take steps to provide additional incentives for employees.”
The survey revealed that across the GCC and in many industrial sectors salary hikes were far outstripped by perceived increases in the cost of living.
The disparity was most pronounced in Qatar, with a perceived average cost of living increase of 38 per cent – 22 per cent higher than salary increases. In Dubai living expenses were believed to have risen by 37 per cent, resulting in a gap of 20 per cent.
A combination of the falling dollar and the rising cost of living across the GCC has led to unprecedented levels of discontent among regional employees, according to the study.
This is causing more and more workers to consider switching companies. And many are ready to explore opportunities in new industries and other countries in the region and beyond.
The widening shortfall between salary increases and the cost of living has led many to consider taking dramatic steps. In Qatar, 50 per cent of respondents said increases in household expenses had led them to consider relocating to another country or returning home.
Oman came in second, with 47 per cent, while Kuwait saw the lowest numbers of professionals looking to leave the country, at 32 per cent. In the UAE 37 per cent had thought about moving abroad.
Employers in the Emirates are taking the hit from this economic shortfall, with many staff members considering job migration to improve their finances.
Forty per cent of UAE workers said rising expenses might force them to look for a better job in the same industry and 24 per cent said they would consider switching to another industry. In Saudi Arabia the corresponding figures were 45 and 19 per cent.
Only 15 per cent of people in Qatar and 20 per cent in Oman said they would consider changing industries.
Bayt.com CEO Rabea Ataya said: “In terms of perceived cost of living increases and what this is doing to retention rates, the numbers are cause for concern.
“Around 70 per cent of the survey’s respondents said they had held two or more jobs in the past five years. On average, people change jobs about once every two years.
“We also found that loyalty improved as salaries increased. Employers who do not close the gap between earnings and living expenses will have difficulty attracting and retaining people.
“On a more positive note, a fair number of people tend to view their situation as being better than their peers. Forty per cent of people in the UAE said they believed this, as did 46 per cent in Qatar and 38 per cent in Saudi Arabia.
“People are generally more content when they feel their lives measure up well against their peers, so how businesses reward employees in relation to each other can have almost as much of an impact as overall salary rates. A lot of human resource management is about perceptions.”
Nassim Ghrayeb, chief executive officer of YouGovSiraj, said the findings underscored the importance of supplementing broad economic indicators with individual surveys.
“The value of research like this is that it gets to the heart of what people think and feel about their employment status and about their finances, providing a grass-roots understanding of people’s beliefs and concerns and allowing employers to act accordingly. The story here is not just about employees. The pinch is also being felt by businesses themselves, with many workers planning to move on. These results reveal just how much of a headache the spiralling cost of living and weak dollar is for employers, who, of course, also need to consider their profit margins when increasing salaries.”
In terms of industry sector, banking and finance staff topped the salary scale while those in education fared the worst. Banking and finance also enjoyed some of the most rises in 2007, with hikes around 18 per cent.
Bayt.com and YouGovSiraj polled 15,000 employees in the six GCC countries across 20 industry sectors, including automotive, finance, advertising, IT and pharmaceuticals.
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